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UK employment reaches record high, consumer crunch intensifies

Staff Writer |
According to the Office of National Statistics, the employment rate is at a joint record high of 74.8%, with 31.95 million people now in work – an increase of 372,000 on the year.

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This rise has been driven by full time work with average weekly earnings up by 2.1% including bonuses. Meanwhile there are 50,000 fewer unemployed people with unemployment remaining at its lowest rate since 1975 at 4.6%.

Today’s figures also show:

- the female employment rate is at a joint record high of 70.2%, with nearly 15 million women in work
- the unemployment rate for 18 to 24 year olds who have left full time education is 10.7% – a joint record low
- there are around 770,000 vacancies in the economy at any one time.

The squeeze on UK households is tightening, as wage growth continues to slow despite unemployment sitting at long-term lows, amid a spike in inflation.

UK average weekly earnings including bonuses for the three months to April slowed to 2.1% from a revised 2.3% a month ago, which was well short of the market's estimated rise to 2.4%.

Excluding bonuses, basic wages grew just 1.7% in the period, the Office for National Statistics revealed on Wednesday, down from 1.8% and shy of the consensus forecast of 2%.

With consumer price inflation jumping to 2.9%, as confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday, UK real earnings are being squeezed significantly.

This meant inflation-adjusted annual wage growth for total average earnings was negative for the first rime since 2014, down 0.4%, with the basic pay rate down 0.6%.

This comes despite the ILO unemployment rate for the three months to April staying at 4.6%, the lowest since 1975, as expected.

Furthermore there was a 109,000 increase in employment compared to the preceding three-month period, or up 372,000 compared to last year, meaning the proportion of people of working age in employment was 74.8%, which is the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.

The more timely claimant count rate, which covers the month of May, remained at 2.3%, with jobless claims up 7,300 after a 22,000 increase a month before.

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