Labour market remains resilient

Labour market remains resilient

UK unemployment hit a low not seen since 1974 in the first three months of the year, Office for National Statistics data has shown. 

Between January and March 2019, the UK unemployment rate was an estimated 3.8 per cent, a level not seen since the quarter October to December 1974. 

Unemployment among women reached its lowest since comparable records began in 1971, ending the first quarter of 2019 at an estimated 3.7 per cent. 

Meanwhile, the employment rate rose to 76.1 per cent, up from 75.6 per cent a year earlier, equating to 32.7m people aged 16 and over.

According to the ONS data, the highest employment rate, at 85.2 per cent, was for those aged 35 to 49 years.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, said: "The UK labour market continues to show resilience amid political uncertainty as unemployment drops to 3.8 per cent, the lowest level since October to December 1974.

"Real wage growth including bonuses, however, is showing signs of slowing, increasing by 1.3 per cent for the first quarter of 2019 compared with a year earlier. "

The number of self-employed workers also rose during the first three months of the year, reaching 4.93m. 

Mr Cameron warned this group of people risked lagging behind when it comes to saving for retirement, and the government had to act to bring them into the scope of auto-enrolment.

He said: "The government needs to urgently focus on this large proportion of the UK workforce to make pension saving more attractive or many will risk facing retirement with little more than a state pension."

Elsewhere, the number of EU nationals employed in the UK increased by 98,000 in the first quarter of the year to 2.38m, while non-EU nationals working in the country rose to 1.32m. 

Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at the global job site Indeed, said: "Brexit or no Brexit, the UK economy’s voracious appetite for workers continues to draw in talent from abroad.

"On the front line, it’s clear the UK’s buoyant jobs market has regained some of its appeal for many Europeans.

"In the first quarter of 2019, the number of EU nationals working in the UK saw its largest quarterly increase since 2014. At the same time, numbers of EU-based workers searching on Indeed for British jobs have been picking up since a year ago."

He added: "While Brexit uncertainty has eased since March, it’s unlikely such big demographic shifts are a direct response to that.

"The more likely cause is the continued tightness of Britain’s labour market: with lots of jobs available and employers finding it hard to fill vacancies, average wages are still rising and making the UK an attractive destination for international workers.

"However not all sectors are enjoying the benefits of the flow of foreign talent. Indeed’s data shows the number of EU-based workers looking for British construction jobs has plunged by 44 per cent since 2015, while searches for UK farming, fishing and forestry jobs are down by almost a third."