UK unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The figures, released this morning, reveal UK unemployment dropped by 52,000 to 1.6m in the quarter to November 2016.
However, while the UK employment rate remained at a record 74.5%, the number of people in work actually fell by 9,000 to just over 31.8m.
Commenting Doug Monro, co-founder of job board Adzuna, said it was tricky to draw any conclusions from the data due to the “confused” picture they paint of the UK jobs market.
“We are confident 2017 is set to see the gig economy build momentum and establish itself as a strong segment of the employment market. Other new sectors – such as fintech – are developing fast and attracting highly skilled workers. Science, research, engineering and technology jobs are also set to grow quickly, possibly as fast as double the rate of other sectors, creating 142,000 extra positions over the next few years.
“Despite this, many unanswered questions remain, such as the potential effects of Brexit on candidate movement around Europe and whether the productivity gap in the UK will be filled.”
John Salt, group sales and marketing director at job board Totaljobs Group, added it was great to see to unemployment continue to fall in what had proved to have been a turbulent year for the UK.
“Our most recent Totaljobs Employment Index also reflected the strength of the job market, with applications up 11% in the last three months of 2016 compared to the three months’ prior (July, August and September). Applications were also up 25% compared to October, November and December in 2015.
“We know the job market remained resilient throughout 2016 and as we await the first figures for 2017… The job market has thus far been largely unaffected by the drama unfolding all around it, but for it to stay that way, we urge the government to continue working with businesses in a constructive way that allows them to keep on hiring.”
Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of careers site CV-Library, also welcomed the figures, adding they present a positive indication for the labour market in 2017.
“Business and candidate confidence is strengthening, with our own data showing that applications increased by 10% in September, while job vacancies rose by an impressive 13.6% in November. We expect to see these figures pick up considerably in this first quarter of the year, which places the UK’s job market in a strong position for the months ahead.”
But Recruitment & Employment Confederation CEO Kevin Green expressed concerns about the slowdown in employment growth. “Our data shows that candidate ability has significantly worsened, which goes some way to explain why employers are finding it more difficult to fill vacancies.
“The immediate question is how do employers find the people to fill the jobs they have available? Especially in sectors such as healthcare, hospitality and construction, which rely heavily on workers from the EU, there are real fears about the impact of reduced immigration.”
Also commenting on the figures, Julia Kermode, CEO of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, said the figures contradict the idea that jobs growth is being led by an increase in people in so called “precarious” roles.
“The year-on-year figures show that the number of temporary employees has decreased by 22k and that 71% of new employees are working full time rather than part time. Both of these factors contradict recent media rhetoric, which suggests that the UK’s employment figures are driven by increasing number of people in non-permanent, part-time ‘precarious’ roles.
“Furthermore, there was an increase of 29k people choosing temporary employment because they do not want a permanent role, which contradicts media perceptions that temporary workers do not have any choice over their status.”