A piece by Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor, in today’s Times. Politicians and journalists alike are delighted that of the 100,000 people entering employment in the 12 months to December 2018, 68,000 were women, only 32,000 men.
Female unemployment has fallen below 4 per cent for the first time on record as the rising pension age for women and Britain’s thriving jobs market drew more women into the workforce.
Women accounted for the bulk of the fall in unemployment over the past year, the Office for National Statistics revealed as its latest figures once again painted a picture of a robust labour market.
Total employment for the three months to December hit a record high of 32.6 million, the highest since records began in 1971. The employment rate, at 75.8 per cent, was the equal highest on record.
Unemployment dropped 14,000 on the previous quarter to 1.36 million and at 4 per cent is at levels last seen 44 years ago. Inactivity, which measures those who cannot or do not want to work, including students and the long-term sick, declined to a record low of 20.9 per cent.
The vacancy rate suggested that there would be no let-up to Britain’s jobs boom, which has seen unemployment settle the pre-crisis average of 5.1 per cent for three years now.
In the three months to January 2019, unfilled vacancies increased by 16,000 to 870,000 — the highest since records began in 2001. Most of the vacancies were in the services sector where wholesalers, retailers and car repair shops had 140,000 unfilled posts.
Pay also continued to recover. Regular wages grew 3.4 per cent on the same period in 2017, the fastest pace in a decade. After adjusting for inflation, real-terms regular pay growth of 1.2 per cent was the highest in two years, extending the period of rising living standards for households to 11 months.
The Resolution Foundation think tank said that the “encouraging news on pay came alongside good news on both job quantity – as employment rose by 167,000 and inactivity fell to record lows – and job quality, as the share of workers on zero-hours contracts at the end of 2018 was down 57,000 on the previous year”.
Alok Sharma, the employment minister, said: “These figures show the underlying resilience of our jobs market, once again delivering record employment levels.
“Our pro-business policies mean we have started the new year with a strong labour market, with wages outpacing inflation for the eleventh month in a row, and more people in work than ever before. It’s also excellent news that we see the rate of women in employment at a record high.”
Britain’s employment success over the past year can be explained by a large increase in the female workforce. Of the 100,000 decline in unemployment in the 12 months to December, 68,000 were women.
The female employment rate reached 71.4 per cent, the highest on record. The ONS said that more women were staying in work as a result of a change in the state pension age, which has been moved to match men at 65 for the first time in December.
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