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May 2019

The labour market figures published on 14 May are the second consecutive set of numbers that suggest that the labour market is slowing.

View analysis for May 2019.

  • Unemployment is 1,298,000, down by 45,000 from last month’s published figure (quarterly headline has fallen by 65,000) and the unemployment rate is 3.8%, down by 0.1 percentage points on last month and down by 0.2 percentage points on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,085,200, up by 24,700 on last month, and the claimant rate is 3.0%.
  • The number of workless young people (not in employment, full-time education or training) is 933,000. It fell by 18,000 on the quarter. This represents 13.5% of the youth population (down by 0.2 percentage points) on the quarter.
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 467,000, and is down by43,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.5 unemployed people per vacancy
  • The employment rate is 76.1% (no change on last month’s published figure and up by 0.2 percentage points in the preferred quarterly measure).

Duncan Melville, chief economist at Learning and Work Institute, commented:

While much of the comment on today's labour market numbers will focus on the unemployment rate reaching a new low of 3.8%, the lowest rate since late 1974, digging a little deeper into the numbers reveals a slowing labour market which we highlighted last month. Unemployment has fallen in the month (by 45,000) but so has employment so this is down to a substantial rise in economic inactivity - i.e. people leaving the labour market. Amongst the economically inactive there has been a substantial rise in the number who do not want a job. Vacancy levels have been stuck at around 850,000 for seven months and the slight decline in wage growth also appears consistent with a slowing labour market.

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Paul Bivand,  associate director for statistics and analysis at Learning and Work Institute's said:

It is particularly worrying that the flows figures for Jobseeker's Allowance claimants - which, from January 2019 relate to new claimants for contribution-related JSA (or new-style JSA) seem to show similar patterns to the last time contribution-related and income-based benefits were separated, before 1996, before the introduction of the Jobseeker's Agreement where claimants agreed the steps they would take to get a job.

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Chart 14: Employment rate in the UK

The employment rate has risen by 0.2 percentage points over the quarter, to 76.1%. The reduction visible in the chart is within rounding to 76.1% (from 76.13% to 76.06%).

Chart 11: Vacancies – whole economy survey

Vacancies (in the Office for National Statistics survey of the whole economy) fell slightly this month, to 846,000. As the number of vacancies is quite volatile, and frequently revised, the Office for National Statistics uses a three-month average.

Chart 8: Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimant count

The ONS headline Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimant count is up by 24,681 in April, taking the total to 1,085,169. ONS' claimant count before seasonal adjustment is up by 23,447 to 1,116,579. This change is directly comparable to the local level claimant count changes published today.

L&W's seasonally adjusted estimate rose by 14,400 to 1,066,100.

Chart 19: Inactivity rate quarterly change in regions – January to March 2019

Overall, there was a 0.1 percentage point fall in the inactivity rate. 6 regions showed rises in inactivity, led by the North East and the South West.