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The number of people in work reaches record high

22 January 2019

The number of people in work reaches record highGovernment labour market data reveals that almost 76% of the UK population is now in work, the highest employment level for decades.

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that UK employment has reached a record high of 32.54 million. It means the percentage of the UK population aged 16-64 in work has risen to 75.8%, the highest level since 1971.

Average earnings, excluding bonuses, increased by 3.3% in the year to November, as wage rises continued to outpace inflation. The number of job vacancies rose by 10,000 to a record high of 853,000.

ONS head of labour market David Freeman said: "The number of people working grew again, with the share of the population in work now the highest on record. Meanwhile, the share of the workforce looking for work and unable to find it remains at its lowest for over 40 years, helped by a record number of job vacancies."

Commenting on the figures, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "The marked increase in employment is further evidence that the jobs market remains a major positive for the UK economy. Although some firms report that Brexit uncertainty and recruitment difficulties are weighing on hiring intentions, the high degree of flexibility of the labour market continues to limit the impact of a sluggish economy on UK jobs growth."

While he welcomed evidence of pay growth, Thiru warned that "achieving meaningful real wage increases over a sustained period is likely to prove challenging without delivering a marked improvement in productivity and easing the high upfront business costs which stifle pay increases."

He also predicted that staff shortages are likely to continue to hamper the UK's economic growth. "More must be done to protect the long-term health of the UK labour market, including delivering a future immigration system that helps, rather than hinders businesses ability to invest, grow and support the economy. The prime minister's announcement that there will no longer be a cost for EU nationals to apply to the Settled Status Scheme is a welcome move for the many businesses that are concerned about losing European employees after Brexit."

Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: "The UK's robust labour market continues to provide much-needed buoyancy for the economy in a period of stress. Businesses have been steadfast in their drive to take on workers and create positions. But as the pool of available talent shrinks, the competition for new hires grows more intense by the minute.

"Firms will increasingly be looking to invest in their existing staff and technology to compensate for the shrinking labour supply, but they will also need more support from the government - particularly in the form of progress in the Industrial Strategy."

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