Unemployment remains at record levels low despite Brexit uncertainty

UK unemployment remains at record levels, according to official data released by the Office for National Statistics this morning.

The data reveals UK unemployment fell by 52,000 in the quarter June-to-August to 1.4m, resulting in the jobless rate being unchanged at 4.3% from the previous quarter – remaining at its lowest level since 1975.

Meanwhile, there were 32.1m people in work in the UK in the period, up 94,000 on the previous quarter, 317,000 up on the same period in 2016, with a UK employment rate of 75.1%, up from 74.5% in the same period of 2016.

Commenting on the figures, David Clift, HR director at career site totaljobs, said they represent a “real triumph” for the job market, which remains robust despite continued political uncertainty. “One would have been forgiven for thinking that the stagnation of Brexit talks would have precipitated a rise in unemployment, though the job market has remained remarkably consistent since the triggering of Article 50 and subsequent negotiations.

“To be placed in its historical context, not since 1975, where the average house price was under £12k, has unemployment been so low.

“Data from totaljobs has found that a number of industries are continuing to perform strongly, with the transport and logistics sector seeing a 6% month-on-month increase in job postings. Employers can take confidence from today’s figures.”

Recruitment & Employment Confederation CEO Kevin Green also praises the positive figures: “The creation of more jobs despite business uncertainty is a testament to the determination and positive attitude of British employers to build and grow in the face of economic challenges.”

However, he counters: “Businesses can only grow if they have access to the people and skills they need. As the supply of available workers decreases, exacerbated by a declining rate of net migration, it is essential that the government does all it can to support employers. That means urgent clarity on the details of any post-Brexit transition period, confirmation that EU nationals currently working in the UK can stay and rapid development of a sustainable, agile, evidence-based immigration system that will support the economy.”

Mariano Mamertino, EMEA economist at global job site Indeed, adds: “While Britain’s job creation juggernaut continues to rumble on, its pace is slowing as the country closes in on full employment.

“Such a tight labour market has shifted the strain from jobseekers to recruiters – who are increasingly struggling to hire the staff they need to grow. Ordinarily employers would ramp up salaries in order to compete in the war for talent - but such anaemic wage growth figures show this just isn’t happening.

“While Britain’s unemployment success story means more people are in work than ever before, it is increasingly looking like a distraction from the clear and present danger posed by falling real wages.”

As today’s figures also show a growth in self-employment, Julia Kermode, CEO of The Freelancer & Contractor Services Association (FCSA), the UK’s largest independent trade association whose members provide professional support services to some 120,000 freelancers and contractors, said: “Self-employment accounts for 61% (57,000) of the increase in people in work, whereas 24% (23,000) of the increase was due to permanent employment.

“The growth in self-employment is positive and encouraging for the economy ... Self-employed professionals, such as interims, consultants or project managers with sought-after skills, can support businesses on an as-needs, non-permanent basis, allowing growing businesses to be more agile.”

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