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April 2019

The labour market figures published on 16 April suggest that the labour market may be starting to slow.

View analysis for April 2019.

  • Unemployment is 1,343,000, which rose by 4,000 from last month’s published figure (quarterly headline down by 27,000) and the unemployment rate at 3.9%, showed no change on last month and has fallen by 0.1 percentage points on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,066,200, increased by 28,300 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 916,000, down by 32,000 on the quarter, representing 13.2% of the youth population (down by 0.4 percentage points).
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 493,000, down by 19,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.6 unemployed people per vacancy.
    The employment rate is 76.1% (showed no change on last month’s published figure and has risen by 0.4 percentage points in the preferred quarterly measure).

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

Looking at the quarterly changes to December 2018 to February 2019 one could easily conclude that the labour market is still performing strongly. Employment is up strongly in the quarter, and while unemployment fell by much less, economic inactivity was also down substantially. So, these numbers appear to suggest that the plentiful availability of jobs is encouraging people to enter the labour market.

However, the monthly numbers suggest a much less rosy outlook: employment is up only slightly by 7,000, and unemployment increased in the month by 4,000. The level of vacancies was also flat suggesting a stalling in labour demand. Also, the percentages of people working involuntarily on a part-time or temporary basis because they could not find a full-time or permanent job respectively both edged up in today's figures.

While one swallow does not a summer make, these are potentially signs of a slowing labour market in the face of recent economic weakness and continued Brexit uncertainty. We will watch the coming months' numbers with interest to see if today's numbers are confirmed as the start of a new trend or merely a blip.

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Chart 14: UK employment

Employment is up by 7,000 on the figure published last month, to 32,721,000

Chart 12: Vacancies – whole economy survey

Vacancies (in the Office for National Statistics survey of the whole economy) fell slightly this month, to 852,000. As the number of vacancies is quite volatile, and frequently revised, the Office for National Statistics uses a three-month average.

Chart 6: Young people not in employment, full-time education or training

The number of out of work young people who are not in full-time education (916,000) has fallen in the past quarter by 32,000, or 3.4%. The fall was among the inactive, with the number of unemployed young people not in full-time education or training rising to 345,000.

Chart 18: Employment rate quarterly change in regions – December 2018 to February 2019

This quarter, 9 regions showed a rise in the employment rate, led by Northern Ireland and the West Midlands. The employment rate fell in 3 regions, led by the North West and Wales.