Qualified welcome for falling unemployment rate

Industry groups and unions have welcomed the fall in unemployment to its lowest rate in a decade, but the outlook for pay was said to be "troubling".

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment and skills, said: "While it's encouraging that employment continues to rise strongly, lacklustre pay growth underlines the need for a pick-up in productivity before wages can rise faster.

"Propelling innovation by broadening access to existing research and development incentives and not adding to the cumulative burden on businesses, from recent Government policies, will help firms to create more jobs and boost productivity."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's good news that employment is rising, but more needs to be done to ensure these jobs are decent quality.

"Wage growth remains in the slow lane. Putting money back into people's pockets is essential to securing a strong recovery, and avoiding the debt-fuelled spending boom that caused the last financial crisis."

Owen Smith, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, said: "Today's fall in unemployment is welcome but there are no signs the Tory pay crisis is going away.

"At this rate, after 10 years of the Tories, the pay of working families will have risen at its lowest level in nearly 100 years."

Chancellor George Osborne said: "In the face of significant turbulence in the global economy, it is encouraging that more people than ever have the security of a job and a rising pay packet.

"With a record number of people in work and unemployment and youth unemployment reaching 10-year lows, this is further evidence of the need to stick to the Government's long-term plan to deliver economic security against the cocktail of risks affecting the world."

Mark Atkinson, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said: "While overall unemployment is at its lowest ever level, disabled people are at risk of being left behind in the recovery.

"This is evidenced by the fact that the gap has remained static at around 30% for more than a decade."

David Kern, British Chambers of Commerce chief economist, said: "Another positive set of employment figures confirms that the UK's dynamic and vibrant labour market remains a source of strength for our economy at a time of major international and domestic headwinds.

"However, if we are to continue to see a sustained improvement in labour market conditions much more needs to be done to close the UK's skills gaps."

Leonard Cheshire Disability's head of policy and campaigns, Patrick Olszowski said: "Today's figures show that 51,000 more disabled people are now in work compared to three months ago. This is good news but there is a still a long way to go."

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses policy director, said: "Unemployment is historically low, demonstrating the ongoing strength of the UK labour market. However, the fact that average earnings growth has slowed is a sign that businesses are putting off pay rises in the face of a number of emerging headwinds."

Laura Gardiner of the Resolution Foundation said: "The jobs market continues to impress, with welcome jobs growth seen across all areas of the labour market.

"But the outlook for pay is more troubling, with the UK's nascent productivity recovery actually falling back towards the end of last year."

James Sproule, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: "The UK's strong employment remains one of the few bright spots in a world where there are an increasing number of economic uncertainties. Wage growth may appear modest in nominal terms, but this could be a feature of impressive increases in the number of young people who are in work."

Helen Barnard, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "We now need to be thinking about how people get on and can earn more work. The Budget next month provides the Government an opportunity to support businesses so prosperity is available to all households, especially those on the lowest incomes."

Read Full Story