Number of people in work still near record high and wages continue to grow

Employment remains near record highs in the UK, with higher numbers of working women contributing to the strong labour market, new figures reveal.

Employment was up by 28,000 in the three months to May to 32.75 million, the Office for National Statistics said.

Unemployment fell by 51,000 to 1.29 million in the period.

UK unemployment
UK unemployment

The unemployment rate was 3.8% – its lowest level since the end of 1974.

The employment rate for women remained at a record high, while levels of economic inactivity among women between the ages of 16 and 64 reached a record low of 25.3% due to changes in the state pension age.

72.0% of women aged 16 to 64 were in paid work, the joint highest female employment rate on record

— Office for National Statistics (@ONS) July 16, 2019

Meanwhile, the number of self-employed part-timers hit a new high of 1.52 million.

Matt Hughes, deputy head of labour market statistics at the ONS, said: “The labour market continues to be strong, with the unemployment rate still at a near-record high and unemployment down again.

“The number of self-employed part-timers has passed one and a half million for the first time, well over double what it was 25 years ago.”

Total earnings, which includes bonuses, were up 3.4% compared with 3.2% in the previous month.

Stripping out bonuses, the growth rate for regular pay was 3.6%, up from 3.4% in the three months to April.

Pay growth v inflation
Pay growth v inflation

“Regular pay is growing at its fastest for nearly 11 years in cash terms, and its quickest for over three years after taking account of inflation,” said Mr Hughes.

The boost to the National Living Wage in April, which is 4.9% higher than the 2018 rate, provided a lift for wages.

Pay increases for some NHS staff also contributed to the higher rate.

But despite recent growth, average regular pay for British employees was lower than prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

In real terms, workers took home an average of £468 per week in the three months to May, £5 lower than the pre-recession peak of £473 a week recorded for April 2008.

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: “Wages outpacing inflation for 16 months in a row, more people in work than ever before and joint-record female employment means better prospects for many thousands of UK families and shows the continued resilience of the UK labour market.

“With unemployment still falling, remaining at its lowest level since 1974, it’s clear that UK employers continue to have confidence in our hard-working workforce.”