Employment stays at record levels, unemployment also falls

The number of people in work in the UK remains at record levels, according to official data.

Released by the Office for National Statistics this morning, the data reveals in the quarter to April the number of people in employment reached a record high of 32.3m –remaining at a record high of 75.6% for a consecutive month and at levels not seen since 1971.

Unemployment also fell by 38,000 to 1.42m over the quarter, though wage growth slipped to 2.8% from 2.9%.

Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) head of policy Sophie Wingfield said while higher starting salaries were being introduced to attract talent in a more competitive jobs market, broader wage growth had not yet materialised.

“Our own Report on Jobs data shows that demand for staff has increased this month, but we have seen a further fall in staff availability. Whilst it is encouraging to see a rise in employment figures, a lack of candidates remains a major challenge for recruiters – particularly in areas like nursing, engineering, manufacturing and IT. Staff shortages are becoming business critical in many of these key sectors.”

Also commenting on the figures, Martin Talbot, director at careers site totaljobs, said the ongoing optimism in the UK labour market is a “very encouraging sign”.

“We have seen a continued resilience in job availabilities on our platform as well – totaljobs currently has over 260,000 jobs live onsite. With availabilities in most industries, it’s a buyer’s market. For those interested in pursuing a new challenge or career path, now is the time to get started.”

Meanwhile Tara Sinclair, economist and senior fellow at global job site Indeed, said Britain’s jobs market was defying “economic gravity once again” and was “successfully floating above the sputtering economy”.

“Despite its increasing tightness, the labour market continues to deliver an improbable combination of new jobs, falling unemployment and rising wages. If the job creation boom continues like this, full employment should soon move out of the hypothetical and into the real.”

However, Sinclair added a note of caution, claiming a dearth of talent was starting to hit job creation, while a tight labour market is driving up wages.

“While workers will welcome the return of real wage growth, pay rises alone cannot deliver lasting benefits to the economy. In the long term rising wages can stoke inflation unless we see the one thing that continues to elude the surprisingly resilient labour market – better productivity.”

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