Employment and labour market

UK labour market statistics: December 2018

UK jobs market continues to tighten amidst continued Brexit uncertainty

Today’s labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of vacancies at 848,000 for September to November 2018, 10,000 more than the estimate for June to August 2018 and 40,000 more than the estimate for a year earlier.

The unemployment rate was 4.1%, virtually unchanged compared with May to July 2018 but lower than the estimate for a year earlier (4.3%). There were 1.38 million unemployed, 20,000 more than for May to July 2018 but 49,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 years who were in work) was estimated at 75.7%, higher than for a year earlier (75.1%) and the joint-highest estimate since comparable estimates began in 1971. There were 32.48 million people in work, 79,000 more than for May to July 2018 and 396,000 more than for a year earlier.

The number of people aged from 16 to 64 years not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) was 8.66 million, 95,000 fewer than for May to July 2018 and 195,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) director of policy, Tom Hadley commenting on ONS figures:

“Recruiters continue to work hard with employers to fill jobs and aid future growth – but with near-record numbers of vacancies in the UK labour market (848,000 for September to November 2018), and candidate availability tight, the challenge of finding the right staff is set to intensify.

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“These latest figures also don’t reflect the political uncertainties in the last week. Even before the latest turbulence, REC data showed employer confidence in the economy declining month on month – down from net: 6 in July 2018 to net: -11 in November 2018.

“Businesses need clarity regarding Brexit and a pragmatic approach to future immigration policy to deal with labour shortages. Employers are looking for reassurances from Government over our future relationship with Europe, but instead they are facing more uncertainty by the day.”

Our model predicted the unemployment rate would remain at 4.1%and that there would be an increase in unemployment of 23,000 in the three months to October.

The unemployment rate (the number of unemployed people as a proportion of all employed and unemployed people) was estimated at 4.1%, virtually unchanged compared with May to July 2018 but lower than the estimate for a year earlier (4.3%).There were an estimated 1.38 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 20,000 more than for May to July 2018 but 49,000 fewer than for a year earlier. The economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive) was estimated at 21.0%, lower than for a year earlier (21.5%) and the joint-lowest estimate since comparable estimates began in 1971.

Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is, adjusted for price inflation) increased by 1.0% excluding bonuses, and by 1.1% including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

Commenting on today’s labour market figures for August-October 2018, ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes said:

“The employment rate has continued to rise in the most recent three months, returning to a joint record high, boosted by an increase in full-time workers. There was a corresponding fall in the ‘inactivity rate’ – the proportion of people neither working or looking for a job – while the unemployment rate was virtually unchanged.”

“Real earnings are now growing faster than any time since around the end of 2016.”

Public sector employment, UK: September 2018

For September 2018, 5.36 million people were estimated to be employed in the public sector, 2,000 fewer than for June 2018; this very small fall was entirely due to the transfer of Scottish housing associations to the private sector.

Excluding the Scottish housing associations transfer, the number of people employed in the public sector was estimated to have increased by 20,000 between June and September 2018. 

Between September 2017 and September 2018, public sector employment fell by an estimated 120,000; this large fall was entirely due to the transfer of housing associations in England, Wales and Scotland to the private sector during this period.

Excluding the housing associations transfers, the estimated number of people employed in the public sector increased by 51,000 between September 2017 and September 2018, due mainly to more people working for the National Health Service and the Civil Service.

For September 2018, 27.12 million people were estimated to be working in the private sector, 516,000 more than for a year earlier; excluding the housing associations transfers, the estimated annual increase in private sector employment was 345,000.

For September 2018, of all people in paid work, 16.5% were employed in the public sector and the remaining 83.5% were employed in the private sector.

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