Unemployment dip welcomed, but Labour claims 'crisis' in living standards

The fall in unemployment was widely welcomed, although unions and Labour highlighted that real levels of pay were still not keeping up with inflation.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "Whilst we welcome the overall increase in employment, the fact that real wages are falling and millions are trapped in low paid, insecure work while the cost of basic essentials soars, proves the Tories are presiding over a crisis in living standards.

"These figures mask both regional inequalities and the employment gap faced by women, disabled people and BAME groups, who have too often borne the brunt of austerity cuts."

Matthew Percival, the CBI's head of employment, said:  "While it's encouraging to see a return to jobs growth, and pay marginally increasing, higher inflation means living standards remain under pressure.

"With businesses already concerned about skills shortages, it's essential that current reforms help people gain the skills that businesses need, ensuring the UK has a workforce fit for the 21st century, leading to higher productivity and pay."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Companies have been reporting healthy profits for the last year, but they are not passing on a fair share of profits to their workers.

"The Government must raise the minimum wage to £10 as quickly as possible, and hardworking teachers, midwives and other public servants must get a proper pay rise after years of artificial pay restrictions."

Stephen Clarke, policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: "There is evidence that employment has become more volatile as businesses wrestle with uncertainty and a tighter labour market.

"Recent monthly figures have seen something of a rollercoaster in the employment rate. Particularly strong November figures driving today's welcome overall change, while we know that private sector employment actually fell slightly between June and September."

Anna Mitchell, director at The Prince's Trust said: "Youth unemployment has risen this quarter, which is always a cause for concern, but for many young people in the UK the challenges stretch beyond simply being out of a job."

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The rise in employment and continued decline in unemployment is further evidence that the UK labour market remains a key source of strength for the UK economy.

"It is possible that UK labour market conditions may cool over the next year, as sluggish economic growth and Brexit uncertainty take their toll on firms' recruitment intentions.

"However, we expect that while the UK unemployment rate will drift up to a peak of 4.7% this year, it will remain significantly below the long-run average."

Esther McVey, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, said: "Today's figures show that more people are getting into work than ever before, meaning people are able to provide for their families and build a better future for themselves and their children.

"Nearly half a million more people have the security of a job and a pay packet than this time last year and wages are rising."

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