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UK employment sees biggest decline for four years as wage growth stalls once more

The rate of employment in the UK slumped as wage growth slowed, according to new figures. Credit: PA

UK employment suffered its sharpest decline in more than four years in the three months to September as the number of job vacancies also plunged, new figures reveal.

The number of people in work declined by 58,000 to 32.75 million in the quarter, as the number of people becoming economically inactive jumped higher, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

However, the slump in employment was smaller than analysts predicted, having forecast a decline of 102,000.

The quarterly decline in employment was nevertheless the heaviest since May 2015, when the level fell by 65,000.

Despite the falling number of people in work, the number of people who were unemployed for the period also fell, dipping by 23,000 to 1.31 million.

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ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills tweeted: "Headline rates among the best in advanced economies.

"Pay growth (3.6%) outstripping price rises (1.7%). So many arrows are pointing in the right direction. And yet there is a “but”...

"The average worker’s spending power is (remarkably) still lower today than it was in 2008.

"Average Total Pay (adjusted for inflation) stands at £502/week. In Feb 2008 it was £525/week. Plenty of voters in this election are in work but feeling up against it."

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The ONS said the falling number of people working in retail, on the back of a number of a recent major collapses and store closure programmes on the high street, significantly contributed to the slump in employment.

Despite the falling number of people in work, the number of people who were unemployed for the period also fell, dipping by 23,000 to 1.31 million.

Analysts had predicted that the rate of employment would stay flat at 3.9%, but the figures revealed a decrease to 3.8% for the period.

The fall in both employment and unemployment was driven by an increase in the number of people deemed economically inactive, which covers people who have not been seeking work or are unable to work.

The number of people 'economically inactive' has risen. Credit: PA

The slowdown in the labour market was also highlighted by another decline in the number of UK job vacancies, with the number of roles reporting the biggest annual drop in almost 10 years.

The ninth consecutive monthly slump in vacancies saw the number of positions advertised fall by 18,000 to 800,000 as the rate of decline accelerated from the previous period.

Wage growth also saw the second consecutive month of decline as earnings remained marginally below their pre-financial crisis peak.

Total pay continued to grow much faster than inflation, but the rate of growth slowed to 3.6% from 3.8% growth reported last month. Analysts had predict growth would stay flat at 3.8%.

Statisticians said the average weekly pay, in real terms before tax, for people in the UK was £470 per week.

An ONS spokesman said: “The employment rate is higher than a year ago, though broadly unchanged in recent months.

“Vacancies have seen their biggest annual fall since late 2009, but remain high by historical standards.

“The number of EU nationals in work was very little changed on the year, with almost all the growth in overseas workers coming from non-EU nationals.”