The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released the latest set of UK labour market data, mostly covering the three months to October this year. Christmas always brings us a showing of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but this year the ONS has added to the festive mood by giving us a wonderful set of official jobs figures.
The quarterly 250,000 net increase in total employment is a big as one might once have expected in a full year. Employment is up in all parts of the UK, except Northern Ireland which saw a slight fall in the quarter, with a sharp rise in job vacancies helping an additional 50,000 16-24 year olds into work. And while the overall figure of more than 30 million people in work still leaves the UK employment rate (72%) below the pre-recession rate (73%) it is a landmark worth celebrating, as is the record 10% of over-65s with jobs.
The private sector (employees and self-employed) accounts for the bulk (246,000) of the increase, with jobs in real estate (up 16,000, +2.8% and construction (33.000, +1.6%) particularly strong in the latest quarter, indicating the degree to which the housing market is a key propellant of the UK’s current economic recovery, though manufacturing added 17,000 more jobs too. But surprisingly even the public sector has added 4,000 jobs this quarter, due entirely to net hiring of 10,000 by the NHS. In this context, even the further increase of 25,000 in the number of people working part-time who want a full-time job (to a record high of 1.472 million) may conceal an element of good news if it means more part-timers think there may be more full-time work to be had.
Equally remarkable is the 99,000 quarterly drop in unemployment, unemployment falling everywhere apart from in London, the South West and Northern Ireland. Especially pleasing is the 19,000 fall in youth unemployment and the 33,000 fall in the number of long-term unemployed. And the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants is down by 36,700 in November. With the unemployment rate now at 7.4% - lower than at any time since 2009 - analysts might have to revisit the odds of the rate falling below 7% sometime next year.
By contrast, the average earnings figures take some of the Christmas sparkle off the jobs figures, with employers keeping a Scrooge like grip on regular pay increases which on the measure published by the ONS today continue at a sub-inflation rate of just 0.8%. However, the alternative ASHE measure published by the ONS last week suggests that earnings might be rising somewhat faster than this, so maybe the New Year will bring a bit more cheer on the pay front too.