Today’s release of UK labour market statistics by the ONS has found that:
- the number of people in work saw another slight increase, little changed compared with May to July 2016 but 342,000 more than for a year earlier.
- the number of people registered as unemployed has decreased, now showing the lowest number in ten years, and
- the number of people not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) increased.
For the 3 months ending October 2016, the highest employment rate in the UK was in the South East (78.1%) and the lowest was in Northern Ireland (69.5%).
Whilst the total number of employees in the UK public sector was 5.442 million, 12,000 higher than at June 2016, this figure is 10,000 lower than at September 2015 and employment UK local government has fallen to just over 2.1 million, the lowest recorded level since comparable records began in March 1999.
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, commented:
“Despite the slight fall in employment this quarter, today’s figures still paint a generally positive picture of employment growth and pay. They match findings from a recent CIPD survey of UK employees, where the majority believe it is unlikely they will lose their job and almost half say their financial security has remained stable since the start of the year.
“However, these are backward-looking indicators. Our recent, forward-looking Labour Market Outlook survey of employers paints a much more negative picture, with specific challenges around rising costs, lack of investment in skills and downward pressure on pay.
“It’s therefore important that employers and the Government aren’t complacent, as it’s likely that once the post-referendum honeymoon in the labour market ends, we will start to see the negative economic impact of the vote coming through in these numbers.
“In order to stay one step ahead, Government needs to plan for the longer-term, focusing on policies that help improve skills development and productivity in Britain’s workplaces. Employers also need to concentrate now on developing their long-term talent pipeline, invest in the skills of their existing workforce and develop the progressive people management practices that will future-proof their organisations regardless of the type of Brexit negotiations deliver.”
Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library, comments:
“It’s good to see that the UK’s unemployment rate is down, at its lowest rate for over ten years. That said it’s obvious that labour market activity has slowed down in recent months, as employment is slightly down on the previous quarter. Our own data for September found that vacancies grew by 9.8% during this time, suggesting that businesses are continuing to invest in their workforce and are determined to keep to economy moving by taking on more talent.
“The fact that average weekly earnings increased is an indication that many organisations across the UK are recognising the need to offer fair salaries and not allow pay to stagnate as we navigate our way through unpredictable times post-Brexit. It’s clearly paying off, as our data shows that applications are keeping pace with business demand, rising by 10% in September, compared to the previous month, providing reassurance to candidates and putting many organisations in a positive position in the run-up to Christmas.”
Absence management expert Adrian Lewis, of Activ Absence, expressed concern at whether the drop in unemployment was due to a rise in what is being termed as ‘false self-employment’ by so-called ‘gig employers’ like Uber, and what impact this will have on future figures:
“It’s obviously reassuring to see an increase, albeit modest, in employment and a decrease in unemployment. However, I’m concerned workers may have left unemployment to join the ‘gig economy’ and what the impact of planned IR35 reforms for that sector will have on these figures.
“If a large number of individuals in the gig economy suddenly become eligible for statutory holiday pay, then employers will need to find a system for calculating it, because those working on a ‘self-employed’ basis rarely work 9-5 and their annual leave calculations are complex – we could see gig employers changing employment models as a result – 2017 figures could make for interesting reading in the light of this.”
This story will continue to be updated as further feedback comes in.