Highest number of people in work since records began, new figures show

Employment increased by 167,000 in the three months to December to 32.6 million, the highest since records began in 1971 Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

Record numbers of people are in work and job vacancies are at their highest level ever, new figures reveal.

Average earnings increased by 3.4% in the year to December, the highest for a decade, outpacing inflation.

The number of people in work increased by 167,000 in the last three months. 32.6 million people are now working, the highest number since records back in 1971.

Commenting on the figures, Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma said: “While the global economy is facing many challenges, particularly in sectors like manufacturing, these figures show the underlying resilience of our jobs market – once again delivering record employment levels."

The number of EU nationals working in the UK fell by 61,000 over the year to reach 2.27 million for October to December 2018. Credit: ONS

He continued: “Our pro-business policies mean we have started the new year with a strong labour market, with wages outpacing inflation for the eleventh month in a row, and more people in work than ever before. It’s also excellent news that we see the rate of women in employment at a record high.

“Of course, we need to ensure that we continue to provide one-to-one support for anyone whose jobs may be at risk, or who might be looking to move to a new role.”

Unemployment fell by 14,000 to 1.36 million, 100,000 lower than a year ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The UK’s jobless rate is now 4%, down by 0.3% on a year ago, and the lowest since 1975.

Unemployment figures by region

Figures from the ONS show the number of people out of work, the rise or fall since the last report, and the percentage of the population that represents.

  • North East - 69,000 people out of work - up 6,000 - 5.4%

  • North West - 143,000 unemployed people - down 5,000 - 3.9%

  • Yorkshire and the Humber - 142,000 not working - up 9,000 - 5.2%

  • East Midlands - 121,000 without work - up 11,000 - 5.0%

  • West Midlands - 151,000 unemployed people - up 5,000 - 5.2%

  • East - 91,000 without jobs - down 5,000 - 2.8%

  • London - 218,000 not working - down 8,000 - 4.5%

  • South East - 145,000 without work - down 27,000 - 3.1%

  • South West - 87,000 not working - up 5,000 - 3.0%

  • Wales - 66,000 without work - up 2,000 - 4.1%

  • Scotland - 96,000 unemployed - down 10,000 - 3.5%

  • Northern Ireland - 33,000 without a job - no change - 3.8%

In October to December 2018, the overall unemployment rate was 4.0% – the rate for women was 3.9%, the lowest figure on record. Credit: ONS

The number of economically inactive people fell by 94,000 in the latest quarter to 8.6 million, a rate of just under 21%, the lowest on record.

The number of available jobs increased by 16,000 to a record high of 870,000.

ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes said: “The labour market remains robust, with the employment rate remaining at a record high and vacancies reaching a new record level.

“The unemployment rate has also fallen, and for women has dropped below 4% for the first time ever.

“Most of the growth in employment over the past year is among British nationals.”

The number of EU nationals working in the UK fell by 61,000 over the year to reach 2.27 million for October to December 2018. Credit: ONS

The ONS said the number of overseas nationals in work was still increasing, despite a drop in those from the Eastern European countries, because more people from non-EU countries are in work.

There were an estimated 2.27 million EU nationals working in the UK in the latest quarter, 61,000 fewer than a year earlier, while the number of non-EU nationals increased by 130,000 to 1.29 million.

The ONS added that the number of workers employed on zero-hours contracts fell by 57,000 to 844,000.