From education to employment

The employment rate hits a record high of 74.4%, with 31.7 million people in work

The employment rate in the UK is now at a record high of 74.4% and the unemployment rate is at its lowest in over 10 years at 4.9%, according to the latest set of figures. These figures as highlighted by Duncan Melville, Chief Economist at Learning and Work Institute are for March to May 2016 and are before the Brexit vote in June.

The Office for National Statistics confirmed today that there are a record 31.7 million people now in work – up by 624,000 in the past year and over 2.6 million since 2010.

The rise in employment continues to be driven by full-time work. Average wages before bonuses grew by 2.2% over the last year.

Today’s labour market statistics also show:

  • the female employment rate is at 69.6%, the highest since records began in 1971
  • at 5.6%, the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds who have left full-time education and are unemployed has never been lower

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green said about the announcement:

This remarkable set of figures shows that there are more people in work than at any other point in our history, which is fantastic news as we build a Britain that works for everybody, not just the privileged few.

We’ve entered a period of significant change, but when it comes to our jobs market we’re in a position of strength, with over 2.6 million more people in work than there were in 2010, the number of workless households cut to an all-time low, 750,000 vacancies in the economy and wages rising too.

Our job now is to build on this success story so that everybody can benefit from the opportunities that are being created regardless of who they are or where they come from. Encouragingly, employment has risen in all regions and nations of the UK over the last year.

Sector Response:      

ERSA made a statement about the latest labour market statistics published today:

Behind these chart topping figures lies the work of frontline employment support providers who, through the Work Programme alone, have helped over 786,000 individual jobseekers to enter employment – which includes over 190,000 young people and nearly 50,000 jobseekers on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), many of whom will never have received intensive, specialised support. 

However, in the face of growing economic uncertainty and potentially negative impacts on the labour market, the work of the employment support sector will be more important than ever in helping the new government ward against more gloomy releases to come

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA, said:

“Latest employment figures continue to show the impact of frontline providers who are working hard to support jobseekers across the UK. The new DWP team must maintain the capacity and the specialism of the employment support market at a greater level than is currently planned to meet any future labour market challenges.”

Duncan Melville, Chief Economist at Learning and Work Institute, commented:

” These are a great set of numbers for Damian Green to contemplate as he settles into his new role as Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions. The only fly in the ointment is that the claimant count (UC + JSA) has remained over 30,000 higher than the February 2016 trough for two months now.

“It is important to remember that today’s figures relate to March to May 2016, before the EU referendum vote on 23 June. The outlook for the labour market in the wake of the vote to leave the EU is less sanguine. Already, vacancies in the economy have plateaued at just under 750,000 a lower level than that seen in early 2016. The economic uncertainty generated by Brexit is likely to lead to reductions in business investment and consumer spending. In consequence, economic growth is expected to weaken and unemployment to rise. The IMF have already reduced their growth outlook for the UK, particularly for 2017. Our own initial analysis suggests that unemployment could increase by up to 400,000 to 450,000 by the end of 2017. Today has also seen the release of the July edition of the Treasury’s survey of independent forecasters. The consensus view that emerges is for the unemployment rate to reach 5.7% by the end of 2017. This implies an increase in unemployment from current levels of around 260,000.

This increase in unemployment is not inevitable and can be addressed. As we argued yesterday prompt and well-designed ‘active labour market policies’ can reduce unemployment, and we urge significant action in this regard to be taken in this year’s Autumn Statement.”


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