With all the Brexit problems besieging Theresa May’s government, they did get a fillip from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today in the form of continued good news on employment.

The latest statistics from the ONS that, comparing the three months to May 2017 with the three months to February, the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed fell as did the number of economically inactive people.

To put numbers on it, 32.01 million people were in work in the three months to May, which is 175,000 more than in the three months to February and 324,000 more than for the same period a year ago. At 74.9 percent the employment rate (people in work aged 16 to 64) was also at its highest since comparable records began in 1971.

The unemployment rate of 4.5 percent was at its lowest since 1975, with 1.49 million out of work.

8.83 million people were economically inactive giving a s=rate of 21.5 percent, which is the lowest since comparable records began in 1971.

Compared to a year ago, nominal average weekly earnings including bonuses rose by 1.8 percent and excluding bonuses by 2 percent. But real terms wages (inflation adjusted) including bonuses fell by 0.7 percent and excluding bonuses fell by 0.5 percent.

Employment figures to May 2017Click on chart to enlarge it

Commenting Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, said:

"Families across the country are struggling as prices rise and real wages continue to fall.

"The government must take note and rethink its extreme approach to Brexit.

"Nobody voted to make themselves poorer, but it is the public that will pay the price if the UK is dragged out of the single market and customs union.

"If Theresa May is serious about helping just about managing families, she will agree to soften her approach to Brexit and put people's jobs and living standards first."

Anna Leach, CBI Head of Economic Intelligence, said:

These figures underline the strength of the UK’s flexible labour market, which was recognised in yesterday’s Taylor Review. But declining real pay and productivity remain concerning, reinforcing the imperative that any changes following the review support the economy’s ability to create great jobs.

“Making real progress on productivity growth requires a modern industrial strategy, with real change on the ground on skills, infrastructure and innovation.”

See also  Financial update from the Economic Voice for Monday 28th June 2021

Co-Leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley said:

The government must not use headline unemployment figures as a convenient camouflage to hide the fact that our economy is fundamentally failing.

"Today's figures show that both actual hours worked and average weekly earnings fell. The economy is not meeting the needs of the very people it should be serving.

"More and more workers are being trapped in precarious informal employment or part-time work.

"Yesterday's Taylor report did not propose the bold ideas we need. We need to go back to basics and ask who the economy is really for.

"What good are low unemployment figures if your income isn’t enough to build a life upon? What good is it being forced to take up a job that gives you no security, no stability, and no sense of satisfaction?

"We need to make the economy work for everyone. That means a decent living wage, ensuring everyone is paid a basic income, providing a footing from which to pursue a career that is rewarding and inspiring. It means transitioning and rebalancing our hollowed out economy to invest in the jobs we need for a resilient and secure future, such as in the renewables sector. And it means exploring ideas such as a four-day working week.”

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