UK labour market hits new high

A record 32.9 million people are in employment in the UK while the number of jobless is at a 45-year low, according to official figures. Plus, news that Facebook is to hire 1,000 in the UK in 2020.

Commuters at Euston Station in London
The employment rate in the three months to November stood at an all-time high of 76.3% with a record total of women in full-time work largely responsible for the latest increase.David Freeman, head of labour markets at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said that more than two-thirds of the growth in people in work during 2019 came from women working full-time, much of it attributable to a rise in the retirement age.

"Creating a labour market that supports more women in jobs is critical to achieving a fairer, thriving economy"

Anna Leach, deputy chief economist at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), commented, “The labour market is in good shape as the employment rate hits a new record high.  We’re seeing the strongest employment growth in 10 months with more than two thirds of the growth driven by women. Creating a labour market that supports more women in jobs is critical to achieving a fairer, thriving economy.“The number of people in self-employment has also pushed above five million for the first time, showing the increasing importance of flexible working. For this to continue, there must be the right digital infrastructure in place with the roll out of full fibre for every home and business.”

Why are there so many unfilled jobs in the UK?

Meanwhile, figures from the ONS also showed the number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit dropped by 7,000 to just below 1.31 million, representing the lowest level of jobless since December 1974.Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said, “The UK labour market remains in fine shape. However, many positions remain unfilled, and as it becomes harder to find matches for particular roles, firms will increasingly look to close vacancies and tone down their hiring plans.”

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Bank of England and a possible interest rate rise

Thomas Pugh, UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics, pointed out that the Bank of England is currently focusing on the condition of the labour market as it weighs a possible interest rate increase.“As such, the rebound in employment and slightly softer pay growth will give the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) another reason not to cut rates from 0.75% to 0.5%,” he said.Other data from the ONS showed the number of vacancies fell by 11,000 to 805,00 over the quarter, while the growth in average weekly earnings remained unchanged at 3.2% in November.Minister for Employment Mims Davies said, "With unemployment at its lowest since the 1970s, our Jobcentres go beyond getting people into work - they are about community and progression. Reaching out to more people, and supporting those in work to get ahead."This, coupled with business confidence turning a corner, is paving the way for an even stronger jobs market in 2020."

Facebook to hire 1,000 in the UK in 2020

Publication of the employment figures coincided with an announcement by Facebook that it planned to hire 1,000 more people in the UK by the end of 2020.The latest additions will bring its total employee count in the UK to more than 4,000, most based in London, which is Facebook's largest engineering hub outside of the US.Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, "The UK is at the centre of tech growth and innovation, and is leading the way as the world's biggest tech hub outside of Silicon Valley. It's great news Facebook plans to create 1,000 more jobs in London - yet another sign of the strength of our dynamic tech sector."Facebook said that more than half of the additional staff would work in technology-focused roles across software engineering, product design and data science.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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