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UK employment reaches record high

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The number of people working in the UK has hit an all-time high of 32.54 million, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

At the same time, average earnings outpaced inflation, rising 3.3% in the year to November. Inflation is currently running at 2.1%.

The number of job vacancies rose by 10,000 to a record high of 853,000. There were an estimated 8.66 million people aged from 16 to 64 years who were ‘economically inactive’ (not working and not seeking nor available to work). This is 95,000 fewer than for May to July 2018 and the lowest on record.

ONS head of labour market David Freeman said: “The number of people working grew again, with the share of the population in work now the highest on record. Meanwhile, the share of the workforce looking for work and unable to find it remains at its lowest for over 40 years, helped by a record number of job vacancies.

Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director for Personal Investing at Fidelity International, said: “With Blue Monday safely out of the way, things are definitely looking up. After the gloom comes news that wage growth including bonuses inched up for a sixth month in a row to hit 3.4% while wage growth excluding bonuses held steady at 3.3%. With last week’s UK CPI figure showing inflation having dropped to 2.1% in December this means households are continuing to get progressively richer.

“It has been long suggested that wage growth has been the missing piece of the puzzle in Britain’s long, slow recovery from the financial crisis. It should be the key to unlocking a return to monetary normality. But despite several months of UK wage growth outstripping inflation, it seems that the continued uncertainty created by the political deadlock of Brexit continues to play on the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee’s mind.

Ian Forrest, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, said the figures provided some “much needed reassurance” for investors and the government in relation to the strength of the economy. He added that this was good news for investors in UK companies as it should help to underpin consumer spending.

Helen Morrissey, pensions specialist at Royal London, said that the statistics also pointed to the growing role of women in the workplace: “According to the stats the unemployment rate for women is 4.0%, the joint lowest since comparable estimates began in 1971. We are also seeing more women in full time work while the number of women working part time continues to decrease. Such shifts are good news for women’s long-term financial resilience. For instance we will see more women auto-enrolled into workplace pensions and able to make higher contributions to their pensions. Over time such shifts will help close the gender pensions pay gap and help women build more sustainable financial futures.”

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