UK employment hits another record

May 12 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Unemployment in the UK has fallen to another record-breaking low with more people in work than at any time since 1984, according to official figures.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that UK unemployment fell by 48,000 in the three months to March to 1.41 million, taking the figure to its lowest since records began 20 years ago.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit last month fell by 6,000 to 876,300, the best figure since August 1975, while the number of people in work also rose by 195,000 during the quarter to 28.35 million in March.

But the so-called claimant count was unchanged on the previous month at 2.9 per cent.

The ONS also said that the number of so-called "economically inactive" people Ė including the long-term sick, those not looking for a job or who do not want to work - fell by 80,000 to 7.76 million during the three months to March.

But with demand for labour rising, so too are skills shortages and wage rates. The ONS says that average earnings increased by 5.2 per cent in the year to March, up 0.3 per cent on the previous month and the highest figure since June 2001.

Wage growth in private firms increased by 0.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent while in the public sector it remained unchanged at 4.3 per cent.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's Rebecca Clake said that wage inflation was set to continue.

"Employers are wrestling with competing pressures," she said. "Significant wage inflation could damage growth in the private sector or the expected service improvements following government investment in the public sector.

"However, recruitment pressures and skills shortages are leaving some employers with little choice but to raise salaries to attract the best candidates in the short-term."