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February 2019

The labour market figures published on 19 February are the third set of positive monthly numbers.

View analysis for February 2019.

  • Unemployment is 1,363,000, a fall by 7,000 from last month’s published figure (quarterly headline fell by 14,000) and the unemployment rate was 4.0%, no change on last month and down by 0.1 percentage points on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,010,700, and is up by 14,200 on last month, and the claimant rate is 2.8%.
  • The number of workless young people (not in employment, full-time education or training) is 951,000, and has risen by 9,000 on the quarter, representing 13.7% of the youth population (up by 0.2 percentage points).
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 510,000, and increased by33,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.6 unemployed people per vacancy. Learning and Work Institute estimates this figure may stay at this low level next month.
  • The employment rate is 75.8% (rose by 0.1 percentage points on last month’s published figure and is up by 0.3 percentage points in the preferred quarterly measure).

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

The labour market numbers published today are another set of positive figures. Employment is up substantially, and economic inactivity is down substantially in the quarter (October to December 2018 compared to July to September 2018) both for the third month in a row. In addition, unemployment fell slightly in the quarter following three months of figures showing small rises.

The employment rate has hit another record high, the inactivity rate a record low and the unemployment rate is at its lowest since December 1974 when Slade were at number one with Merry Christmas Everyone.

The number of vacancies also increased to a new record high of 870,000 in January having been around 850,000 for the previous four months.

Annual wage growth was 3.4% in the three months to December continuing the gentle rise seen since the middle of last year. After accounting for inflation, real wage growth was 1.2% - the strongest rate of growth for two years. All these figures suggest a labour market in robust health with strong levels of labour demand.

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

One interesting challenge for Universal Credit has emerged in the separate Universal Credit statistics. The end of the January sales has always produced a sharp rise in Jobseeker's Allowance claims. New claims are now virtually all Universal Credit claims. In one week, up to 10th January 2019, 64,288 new UC claims were recorded, 30% higher than the previous maximum in early December. For comparison, in the recession year of 2009, 112,000 new claims a week were recorded over the whole of February, with payment made in two weeks. DWP has been claiming an improvement in timely payment under Universal Credit, so this very large (but seasonal) rise will be a challenge.

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Chart 15: UK employment

Employment increased by 55,000 on the figure published last month, to 32,597,000.

Chart 13: Vacancies – whole economy survey

Vacancies (in the Office for National Statistics survey of the whole economy) rose this month, to 870,000. 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 14,198 in January, taking the total to 1,010,655. ONS' claimant count before seasonal adjustment rose by 42,000 to 1,001,000. This latter change is directly comparable to the local level claimant count changes published today.

L&W's seasonally adjusted estimate rose by 21,800 to 1,020,000.

Chart 19: Employment rate quarterly change in regions – October to December 2018

This quarter, 10 regions showed a rise in the employment rate, led by Wales and Northern Ireland. The employment rate fell in two regions, London and the West Midlands.