Finance Unemployment in the UK drops by 59,000 people

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LONDON – UK unemployment remained at its lowest level since 1975, according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics.

The unemployment rate was 4.3% in the three months to September, unchanged from the previous reading.

While the headline rate didn't change, unemployment did fall in the three months to September, with 59,000 fewer people out of work.

The employment rate, which measures the proportion of people aged 16-64 in work, hit 75% – down from 75.1% in the previous three months.

In total, there are 32.06 million people at work in the UK, according to the figures, 14,000 fewer than for April to June 2017.

A further fall in unemployment may look positive, but there are some concerns, the ONS said.

"After two years of almost uninterrupted growth, employment has declined slightly on the quarter. However it remains higher than it was this time last year, and as always we would caution people against reading too much into one quarter’s data," senior ONS statistician Matt Hughes said in a statement.

"Unemployment also fell on the quarter, but there was a rise in the number of people who were neither working nor looking for a job – so-called economically inactive people."

Here's the ONS chart of unemployment over the longer term:

Screen Shot 2017 11 15 at 09.33.16 play

Screen Shot 2017 11 15 at 09.33.16

(ONS)

Alongside the unemployment numbers, the ONS' data showed that real wages for average Brits continue to shrink as wage growth fails to keep up with inflation.

"Between July to September 2016 and July to September 2017, in nominal terms, both regular pay and total pay increased by 2.2%, little changed compared with the growth rates between June to August 2016 and June to August 2017," the ONS said.

Wednesday's unemployment data comes 24 hours after inflation stayed at its highest level in five years, as Brexit continues to push up the cost of living in the UK.

The UK's Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rate — the key measure of inflation — was 3% in October, unchanged from September.

When it comes to productivity, there was positive news for the British economy, with average output per hour — a key measure — growing at its fastest rate since 2011, according to the ONS' flash estimate.

"Output per hour – ONS’s main measure of labour productivity – increased by 0.9% in Q3 2017. This is the first quarter of growth in output per hour since Q4 2016 and is the highest rate of growth since Quarter 2 2011," the statistical authority said.

Philip Wales, the ONS' head of productivity, urged caution however, saying that "the medium-term picture continues to be one of productivity growing but at a much slower rate than seen before the financial crisis."