Employment remains stable over past quarter

The
latest Labour Market Statistics show the number of people in employment has
remained broadly stable over the past three months to November 2003, although
average earnings fell slightly.

Figures
from the Office for National Statistics show the working age employment rate
remained at 74.6 per cent, with the number of people in employment rising by
41,000 on the previous quarter.

The
number of people in work grew to 28.15 million, an increase of 186,000 compared
with the previous year.

The
unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent – down 
0.1 per cent – with the number of unemployed people falling by 29,000
over the quarter.

John
Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD)said the fall in unemployment was contrasted with a sharp
reduction in the average working week and a drop in the number of staff in
employment.

"The
amount of work being undertaken in the UK economy each week dropped suddenly
and sharply in the three months to November 2003 – down 7.1 million hours, or
0.8 per cent – despite the welcome news that unemployment is continuing to
fall.

"A
reduction in the average weekly hours of both full-time and part-time workers,
combined with further falls in the number of employees in employment and slower
growth in average earnings, indicates that the UK labour market was less tight
at the end of last year than a glance at the headline jobs figures would imply.

"Assuming
that employers have scope to increase hours of work as the economy recovers –
which may to some extent depend on the aspirations of employees for a better
work-life balance – serious wage pressure is unlikely to build in the early
months of 2004.

"However,
with unemployment low at the outset of recovery, conditions in the labour
market look set to become a greater concern for the Monetary Policy Committee
later in the year – particularly if growth in labour productivity fails to
pick-up," he said.

www.statistics.gov.uk

By Ross Wigham

 

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