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Sharpest Fall in UK Employment Since 2015

The latest numbers to be released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that employment has dropped at a faster pace than at any time in the last four years. Pay growth has also fallen in the last quarter.

The Full Figures

The ONS numbers show a fall in employment of 58,000 in the third quarter of this year. This represents the largest drop in this respect since back in May of 2015. Overall, the last quarter saw the percentage of the working age population in employment drop from 76.1% to 76%.
The biggest fall came in the number of women in work, as this fell by 93,000. On the other hand, the figures for male workers showed an increase of 35,000 during this three month period. Young workers were also among those most badly affected by falling employment numbers.

Part-time employment was also shown to be down. In this case, the decline was measured as a total of 164,000 fewer jobs. This was seen as being a response to the UK economy suffering the slowest annual growth levels in close to a decade.
Another notable aspect was the continuing lack of job vacancies. In fact, this year has seen the biggest annual fall in vacancies since 2009. Annual earnings growth eased moderately too, to 3.6%. Real earnings, which are adjusted for inflation, have been calculated at 1.8% including bonuses, or 0.1% lower if bonuses are excluded.

It is worth noting that the lower employment levels and a small level of economic growth in the third quarter of the year mean that productivity rose by a modest 0.3%. Yet, the annual trend in this respect was flat.

Another feature of these results is that the number of unemployed people who are of working age but have stopped actively trying to find work rose. This means that the unemployment figure dropped by 23,000, to 1,306,000. These numbers reveal that the unemployment rate fell from 3.9% to 3.8%, which is the lowest since the end of 1974.

What Has the Reaction Been?

Margaret Greenwood is the shadow work and pensions secretary. She said that these details are “a real cause for concern”, pointing out that the indicators point to “an economy that has stalled.” On the positive side, the markets had been expecting a bigger drop in employment, of around 102,000. 
It has been suggested that the sharp drops in women’s employment and part-time roles reflect the struggles on the high street. Many businesses have had a difficult year, with business rates and the level of the minimum wage given as examples of the problems that they face.

Frances O’Grady is the TUC general secretary. He stated that “a decade of dismal pay growth” has left many families out of pocket. One of the other effects of the slowing economy has been seen in the rising need for international debt collection services in the country.
Some analysts believe that this may lead to the Bank of England cutting interest rates. The next meeting of the BOE’s MPC before the end of 2019 will be eagerly awaited by many.