Britain’s rate of unemployment has risen again and the number of vacancies fell back further in a sign of a weakening jobs market as the UK faces a looming recession, official figures have shown. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of UK unemployment rose to 3.7% in the three months to October, up from 3.6% in the previous quarter. The data also showed that vacancies dropped by 65,000 in the three months to November to 1.9 million – the fifth quarterly fall in a row and the first annual fall since the beginning of last year.
But the figures signalled that more people are choosing to return to work, with the inactivity rate falling to 21.5% as those in their 50s opt to go back to work at a time of rocketing costs. The ONS said regular wages, excluding bonuses, rose by 6.1% in the three months to October – a record outside of the pandemic – as firms face increasing pressure to increase earnings. But wages continued to be outstripped by rising prices, falling by 3.9% after Consumer Prices Index inflation is taken into account.
As ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills notes, when adjusted for inflation, average weekly pay fell by 2.9% in October - the 12th consecutive monthly fall.
In the same month, 417,000 working days were lost to strike action - the highest number for 11 years, according to new ONS figures.
The new data also shows that the difference in pay growth between the private sector (6.9%) and the public sector (2.7%) has never been wider.
Other official figures on Wednesday are expected to show inflation remaining at eye-watering levels in November, but easing back to 10.9% from 11.1% in October.
In response to the new ONS figures, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that inflation and the downturn resulting from the pandemic and the Ukraine war are impacting growth in economies around the world.
“While unemployment in the UK remains close to historic lows, high inflation continues to plague economies around the world as we manage the impacts of Covid-19 and (Vladimir) Putin’s invasion of Ukraine," he said. “To get the British economy back on track, we have a plan which will help to more than halve inflation next year – but that requires some difficult decisions now. “Any action that risks embedding high prices into our economy will only prolong the pain for everyone, and stunt any prospect of long-term economic growth. “With job vacancies at near-record highs, we are committed to helping people back into work, and helping those in employment to raise their incomes, progress in work, and become financially independent.”
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