The latest labour market data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that, in the period ending in July, the first full month after the UK electorate’s momentous ‘Brexit’ vote, the unemployment rate fell from 5.5 per cent in July 2015 to 4.9 per cent.
By the end of July 2016, the number of unemployed people had fallen by 39,000 on the previous three-month period – February-April 2016 – to 1.63 million. This is 190,000 less than at the same time last year, and the lowest level seen since March-May 2008.
The proportion of people aged 16-64 in employment reached 74.5 per cent, the joint highest since 1971, when comparable data was first compiled.
Wages, excluding bonuses, however, grew at a slower pace, climbing by 2.1 per cent, compared to 2.3 per cent during the same period last year. With bonuses included, the growth rate was 2.3 per cent, a fall from 2.5 per cent in the previous period.
Commenting on the data, Recruitment and Employment Confederation CEO Kevin Green, said the figures indicate employers are refraining from kneejerk reactions in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Applauding the employment rate, Green nonetheless noted the weakening growth in wages and the struggle businesses across a range of sectors are experiencing in finding suitably skilled talent, both of which are areas of concern.
While the economy has recovered well from the shock EU referendum result, confidence remains fragile, Green said.
“We hope to see fiscal stimulus from the Chancellor at the autumn statement to help bolster the jobs market, and we call for sensible decisions around any new immigration policy, so that businesses can continue to access the people they need.”
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), meanwhile, drew attention to the rise in self-employment shown by the ONS data. The number of self-employed people, including contractors and freelancers, in the UK rose by 224,000 year-on-year, reaching a total of 4.76 million, during the three months ending in July.
IPSE Economic Adviser Lorence Nye said the figures mark a continuing trend among growing numbers of people to work for themselves. The self-employment category, he said, is soaring, expanding by nearly four times the rate at which traditional employment is growing.
“Since 2011, the self-employed workforce has grown by 21 per cent, and the fastest growing segment of these workers are those in highly-skilled or professional roles. This group alone contributed £109billion to the UK economy in 2015,” Nye explained.
“With independent professionals in higher demand than ever before, that figure is only likely to increase year-on-year.”