Unemployment remains at 5.1%

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Unemployment remained at 5.1% between January to March 2016, but the employment rate was the highest since comparable records began, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS says the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed people was little changed, but the number of people not working and not seeking or available to work fell.

There were 31.58 million people in work, 44,000 more than for October to December 2015 and 409,000 more than for a year earlier.

Most of the jobs were full time positions. There were 23.12 million people working full time, 328,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.46 million people working part time, 81,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate for men was 79.3% and 69.2% for women, the highest since comparable records began in 1971, partly due to ongoing changes to the state pension age for women resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

Most of the increase in jobs in the last year comes from employed positions, but the number of people who are self employed rose significantly. The number of employees increased by 254,000 to 26.69 million while the number of self-employed people increased by 182,000 to 4.69 million.

Average weekly earnings increased by 2.0% including bonuses and by 2.1% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.

The CBI put the lack of significant change in unemployment figures down to caution over the National Living Wage which came in last month.

Jim Hillage, director of research at Institute for Employment Studies, comments on today’s ONS Labour Market Statistics: “More evidence that the labour market is starting to plateau is provided by this month’s statistics. Overall, employment has risen slightly, by 44,000 over the previous quarter, again driven largely by a further rise in self-employment. However, total hours worked has fallen slightly with women working fewer hours on average. Unemployment has barely changed since last quarter and the number of vacancies in the economy has fallen for the fourth year in a row. Meanwhile, earnings continue to rise fairly sluggishly at around two per cent.”

The figures came out on the day of the Queen’s Speech, outlining bills in the next Parliament. They include proposals to speed up the adoption process in England in the Children and Social Work Bill and a plan for every UK household to have legal right to a fast broadband connection in the Digital Economy Bill, with properties in the “remotest areas” possibly having to contribute to the cost of installation.

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