UK Employment Statistics

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that 32.54 million people are in work.

The unemployment total stands at 1.37 million.

The number of job vacancies stands at 853,000.

Average earnings, excluding bonuses, increased by 3.3% in the year to November.



These latest figures represent a record for the number of people in work in the UK so this is a welcome piece of news for the UK economy. On the other hand, how can it be when we effectively have full employment that economic growth is so anaemic?

My first thought was that there might be something wrong with the statistics. My second thought was that if this is the situation when we have full employment, is this as good as it gets? So basically, we will never be able to afford the public services we need.

With regard to the integrity of the statistics, the ONS classifies somebody as being in employment if they work just one hour per week. Their moderating processes try to ensure that people working very few hours do not skew the headline figures. Their figures show that around 1.4% of the working population work less than 6 hours per week. That said, this still leaves potential for a lot of people to be working less than full-time hours. The Resolution Foundation found, however, that there has been a sharp fall in the number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job. They also indicate that much of the employment gains relate to full-time employment.

Is this as good as it gets? Not necessarily, but there is evidence to suggest that there are structural failings in the UK economy and that the labour market may not be creating enough of the high value and highly paid jobs that we need to drive growth. Then there is the issue of skills shortages. The jobs may be there but the people with the skills to do them may not.

A regional government might be able to address structural problems with the economy. The national government appears to be preoccupied at the moment but the issues that arise from structural problems need to be tackled as a matter of urgency.

Richard Honnoraty 27th Jan 2019


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