Largest drop in people in work since May 2015 as unemployment falls to 1.4m

The number of people in work has fallen by 56,000 in recent months, the biggest quarterly drop in more than two years, new figures show.

There are just over 32 million people in employment, but the 56,000 reduction between August and October is the largest since the three months to May 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Unemployment fell by 26,000 to 1.4 million, which is 182,000 lower than a year ago.

The claimant count, which includes people on Jobseeker's Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit, increased by 5,900 last month to 817,500.

Average earnings increased by 2.5% in the year to October, 0.2% up on the previous month, although pay is still growing at less than the rate of inflation.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work, increased by 115,000 to 8.8 million.

The fall in employment was virtually all among full-time men, although the total employment figure of 32 million is 325,000 higher than a year ago.

Job vacancies were up by 14,000 to a record 798,000.

ONS statistician Matt Hughes said: "Employment stayed close to its record high and, while up on a year ago, declined compared with the previous three months.

"Unemployment also fell, but there was a rise in the number of people who were neither working nor looking for a job. Meanwhile the number of vacancies continue to grow, reaching a new record high.

"There has been a slight pick-up in pay growth in cash terms, which means that, although earnings are still growing less than inflation, the gap has narrowed."

Other figures showed that public sector employment increased by 19,000 in September to 5.4 million, mainly due to an increase in the NHS workforce, which now stands at 1.6 million.

Central government employment increased by 29,000 over the past quarter to just over three million, mainly because of schools converting to academies, while the number of people employed in local government fell by 9,000 to 2.1 million, the lowest since records began in 1999.

Private sector employment fell by 75,000 to 26.5 million.

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