THE UK’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in nearly 45 years, holding a steady 3.8 percent in the three months to October.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of people unemployed fell by around 13,000 to 1.28m, with 32.8m people now in employment. This has prompted some pro-pre-Brexit crowing, but the ONS figures tell only half the story: the drop in unemployment was largely thanks to women finding work.
Female unemployment was cut by a proportionally significant 18,000 to 566,000, or 3.5 percent. The figure for unemployed men rose, by around 4,000 to 715,000 on the quarter, to four percent.
The overall employment rate was estimated at 76.2 percent, 0.4 percentage points up on the previous year. Despite the “record high”, the actual employment rate has changed little over recent quarters.
Self-employed workers are up in number – 33,000, in rounded-up figures – to hit a total of 4.96m. This time the quarterly increase was fueled more by men (3.3m) than by women (1.7m).
Pay growth (including bonuses) slowed to 3.2 percent, below 3.7 percent in the previous period. Annual growth in total pay was at a four-year low, weakened by high bonus payments in October 2018 (against average bonuses this October).
The BBC quoted Chancellor Sajid Javid as saying three-quarters of employment growth in the past year had been outside London and the south-east. “I’m looking forward to getting Brexit done,” he said, “and unleashing Britain’s potential, levelling-up opportunity across the country.”
Labour expressed concern, despite the positive figures, saying average pay levels remained low. It also decried the fact that ministers were committed to leaving the EU with or without an agreement.