UK employment rate hits record high as wages surge higher

Growth in employment fell below analyst expectations Credit: Philip Toscano/PA

The rate of employment in the UK has hit a record high as workers’ wages continue to surge higher, according to new figures.

The number of people in work rose by 31,000 to 32.78 million in the three months to July, the Office for National Statistics said.

But the growth in employment fell below analyst expectations, which had forecast a 55,000 rise.

Meanwhile, the rate of unemployment is at its lowest in 45 years, driven by a record low in the percentage of women who are unemployed.

The number of people out of work dropped 11,000 to 1.29 million for the quarter, as the rate of unemployment stayed flat at 3.8%, lower than predicted by analysts.

Job vacancies continued to tumble, however, falling 23,000 to 812,000 during the period, stoking fears of an economic slowdown.

Vacancies were at the lowest level since November 2017, driven by declining job openings at small firms, the ONS said.

The rate of unemployment is at its lowest in 45 years. Credit: PA

Employment also increased as the number of people aged between 16 and 64 considered economically inactive continued to rise, increasing by 6,000 to 8.59 million.

The high level of employment was also linked to the record-high percentage of women aged between 16 and 64 in work, which remained at 72.1%.

Average earnings, which include bonuses, had the fastest rate of growth since May 2008 as they increased by 4% compared with 3.8% in the previous month.

The ONS said in real terms – after adjusting for inflation – total pay is estimated to have increased by 2.1% compared with a year earlier.

David Freeman, head of labour market statistics for the ONS, said: “The employment rate has remained fairly constant at a joint record high for some months now, while the unemployment rate was last lower at the end of 1974.

“Vacancies continue to fall back from recent record highs, with much of this decline coming from small businesses.

“Including bonuses, wages are now growing at 4% a year in cash terms for the first time since 2008.

“Once adjusted for inflation, they have now gone above 2% for the first time in nearly four years.”

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies said: “Wages are consistently rising faster than inflation – now for over a year-and-a-half – meaning we’re seeing a sustained boost in pay, supporting consumer confidence and giving a vital lift to millions of households who gain from greater financial security.

“This joint record employment rate and decades-low unemployment shows our labour market is booming. It’s especially pleasing to see continued record female employment at 72.1%, signalling the great strides we’ve made in empowering women in the workplace, whatever their background.

“There is still more to do. But today’s positive figures again show a thriving, diverse and resilient labour market to be proud of, and we are in great shape for Brexit on 31 October.”