New record in UK employment as vacancies rise again

Employment figures continue to reach a new high in the UK, with the number of vacancies also continuing to grow. Real wages also look set to increase following a fall in inflation during February.

Workers busy in an office space
The number of people in work in the UK reached a new high of 32.2 million in the quarter to January, according to official figures.And while there was a slight rise in the number registered as jobless, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent was the lowest recorded since 1975.

Job vacancies in the UK continue to grow

Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies increased to 816,000 and average earnings increased by 2.8 per cent in the year to January, a rise of 0.1 per cent on the previous month and 0.6 per cent higher than a year earlier.It meant that wages were finally closing in on the inflation figure, which was running at three per cent in January and fell to 2.7 per cent last month.
The number in work in January increased by 168,000 over the quarter to the highest total recorded by the ONS since records began in 1971. It represented a record employment rate of 75.3 per cent.

Unemployment continues to rise

But there was also an increase of 24,000 in the number unemployed although the 1.45 million total was still 127,000 less than a year earlier.ONS statistician Matt Hughes said, “Employment and unemployment levels were both up on the quarter, with the employment rate returning to its joint highest ever. Economically inactive people, those who are neither working nor looking for a job, fell by their largest amount in almost five-and-a- half years.“Total earnings growth continues to nudge upwards in cash terms. However, earnings are still failing to outpace inflation.”Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey said, “Getting a job means securing an income for a family and the chance to build a better future. That’s why up and down the country we are doing all we can to help people into work.“And from next month, we’ll be taking thousands more people out of paying tax and also increasing the national living wage, benefiting those on the lowest pay and making sure they keep more of what they earn.“In fact, by raising the national living wage, we have ensured that the lowest earners have seen their wages grow by almost seven per cent above inflation since 2015.”

Knock-on affect of UK real wages

Geraint Johnes, research director at the Work Foundation and professor of economics at Lancaster University Management School, said he was hopeful the fall in real wages would end soon, especially as the UK economy was still creating jobs.“Encouraging news on pay includes the 2.8 per cent rise in total pay on the preferred measure, this being driven by gains in manufacturing and, particularly, construction,” he said.“Alongside the drop in consumer price inflation announced yesterday, this heralds an early end to the squeeze on real earnings. Meanwhile, the 182,000 rise in full-time employees in employment figure signals a labour market that continues to grow.” Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said the ONS data also revealed that more people were now quitting their jobs to take up new positions with other companies - a trend that could lead to wage growth as employers raise pay to keep or attract workers.“The post-Brexit squeeze on consumer spending power is easing. Low unemployment, a slowing flow of overseas workers into the UK and high levels of job vacancies are raising wage pressures and boosting job moves,” he said. “The number of people resigning from one job to move to another fell in the wake of the financial crisis, but is now running at its highest level since 2001. The scene is set for a pick-up in earnings growth this year.”
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