Employment falls slightly but number in work still near record high

The number of people in work has remained at a near-record high despite a slight fall in employment, new figures show.

There were 32.39 million people in a job in the three months to August, a fall of 5,000 on the previous quarter.

It was the first fall since last autumn, although employment is still 289,000 higher than a year ago, the Office for National Statistics said.

Unemployment fell by 47,000 to 1.36 million, giving a jobless rate of 4%.

Average earnings increased by 2.7% in the year to August, from 2.6% the previous month.

Including bonuses, earnings grew by 3.1% compared with 2.9% in the previous period.

The number of people classed as economically inactive increased by 103,000 to 8.7 million after a similar rise in last month’s figures. The total included 52,000 students.

David Freeman, the ONS’s head of labour market, said: “People’s regular monthly wage packets grew at their strongest rate in almost a decade, but, allowing for inflation, the growth was much more subdued.

“The number of people in work remained at a near-record high, while the unemployment rate was at its lowest since the mid-1970s.

“However, there was a notable uptick in the number of people who were neither working nor looking for a job, particularly among students.”

The ONS said average weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, increased by 0.7% excluding bonuses, compared with a year ago.

Other figures showed that job vacancies increased by 3,000 to a near-record 832,000.

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma said: “I am particularly encouraged that wages continue to be on the up, outpacing inflation for the seventh month in a row and regular pay is up 3.1% on the year.

“And with unemployment at its lowest since the 1970s, since 2010 there are more people with the security of a job, more people with a regular salary, and more people able to support their families – and that is thanks to action this Government has taken to build an economy that works for everyone.”