The latest seasonally adjusted labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the overall employment rate in the UK dropped marginally to 74.4 per cent in the three months to October, easing back fractionally from the record high of 74.5 per cent reached in the previous three months. This amounted to a fall of 6,000 jobs.

There were 23.2 million people working full-time between August and October 2016, up by 235,000 on the same time in 2015. Meanwhile, 8.56 million people were engaged in part-time work, a rise of 107,000 on the equivalent period last year.

The unemployment rate was just 4.8 per cent, a level last seen between July and September 2005. For men, the unemployment rate stood at 5.0 per cent, falling from the 5.3 per cent recorded at the same point last year. For women, the equivalent rate was 4.7 per cent, a level that has not been lower since October through December 2005.

Of interest to Umbrella Company Employees and other contracting professionals are two key findings. Firstly, the proportion of people working on a temporary basis because they could not find permanent employment dropped from 35.1 per cent in August to October 2015 to 30.5 per cent for the same interval in 2016. This suggests that the remainder are making a positive choice to work on a flexible basis.

Secondly, the number of people positively choosing to work for themselves on a freelancing basis surged by 129,000 during the same three-month interval to hit 4.75 million.

Commenting on the data, Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) Chief Kevin Green said that the UK’s jobs market is closing the year in a solid position, even with the slight easing of employment growth recorded in the latest ONS figures. Unemployment, he noted, has steadily remained at its lowest level since 2005.

He said: “There are reasons for optimism as we head into 2017. REC data shows demand for staff is increasing in many sectors. A quarter of employers plan to take on more permanent staff in the next three months.”

Contractors and freelancers have reason to be optimistic, too. Lorence Nye, Economic Adviser to contractor group the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, said: “The continued growth of self-employment reflects a permanent shift in the structure of the labour market. More people are recognising the benefits of being their own boss and working flexibly.”

Highlighting the importance of the reviews into employment practises currently underway, notably the Taylor review, Mr Nye added: “As self-employment becomes ever more widespread, we need to see radical thinking to ensure some of the biggest issues for these workers – pension provision, fair maternity pay and simpler taxation – are addressed.”

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