Positive employment figures but job creation slows

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The number of people in work in the UK has remained at record levels, according to latest official figures.

The figures, published this morning by the Office for National Statistics, reveal in the quarter February-to-April period the number of people in work rose by 55,000, with the employment rate remaining at a record high of 74.2%.

Meanwhile, UK unemployment fell to 1.67m over the February-to-April period, down 20,000 from the previous quarter, taking the unemployment rate to 5%, the lowest rate since October 2005.

Commenting on the findings, John Salt, group sales director at careers site totaljobs, said in a statement the figures are likely to be seized upon the Remain campaign, ahead of next week’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, to argue that the UK is better and more economically stable in Europe.

“Given the instability that the referendum has caused for businesses of all sizes, it’s really encouraging to see that hiring hasn’t stopped,” Salt said.

“It’s now over to the government to do all it can, regardless of outcome, to continue to reassure businesses and put in place measures that allow them to keep on recruiting.”

Mariano Mamertino, economist at global job site Indeed, said while a second successive fall in unemployment will go some way to allaying the fears stoked by April’s surprise jump in the jobless total, Britain’s rate of job creation has slowed badly this year.

“Many employers have delayed hiring for as long as possible in the face of Brexit uncertainty, the costs of introducing the National Living Wage and global economic headwinds.

“The Brexit uncertainty is far from over – and in the event of a Leave victory, it could be just beginning. But with the summer surge now in full swing in seasonally-affected sectors, the jobless total is inching down as employers who had deferred hiring accept that they can wait no longer.

“So while these are positive numbers, there’s every indication that they represent a soft landing rather than a sudden reversal in hiring sentiment.”

And Mike Cherry, the Federation of Small Business’ national chairman, said while the unemployment rate is at historically low levels, this does not seem to be translating into broader business confidence.

“Clearly there are other factors at play which, although not hitting jobs now, are causing business owners to take a cautious approach.

“Small businesses are already dealing with considerable new cost challenges, including the NLW and pensions auto-enrolment deadlines. Whatever the result of the coming EU referendum – small business will need reassurances that the outcome will not increase the cost of doing business.”

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