British job growth strongest in nearly a year

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The figures cover the three months to November and show the biggest increase since the three months to January 2019.

British job growth was the strongest in nearly a year, with the number of people in employment up by 208,000 to 32.9 million.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics – which cover the three months to November – show the biggest increase since the three months to January 2019.

The number of people out of work dropped by 7,000 to 1.31 million and the unemployment rate of 3.8% remained at its lowest level since early 1975.

ONS head of labour market and households David Freeman said: “The employment rate is at a new record high, with over two-thirds of the growth in people in work in the last year coming from women working full-time.

“Self-employment has also been growing strongly, and the number of people working for themselves has now passed five million for the first time ever.”

Excluding bonuses, pay growth slowed to 3.4%, the slowest since the three months to April 2019.

Minister for employment Mims Davies said: “This, coupled with business confidence turning a corner, is paving the way for an even stronger jobs market in 2020.”

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “Businesses have been eager to recruit over recent years, and higher employment levels have in turn supported household incomes.

“However, many positions remain unfilled, and as it becomes harder to find matches for particular roles, firms will increasingly look to close vacancies and tone down their hiring plans.

“The other side of the coin is pay. Wage growth has disappointed in recent months, but with inflation also weakening, consumers’ spending power should not be overly impacted.

“In particular, small businesses have been struggling to raise salaries to attract new staff, and they will be hoping for cost-cutting measures at the March Budget, alongside more investment in the UK’s gummed-up skills system.”

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “The big winners to emerge have been women aged between 25-34, whose numbers in the workforce have swelled by 85,000 over the past year, which represents around a quarter of the annual increase.

“This suggests that the government’s enhanced childcare offering may be working in tandem with the tightening labour market, which is nudging more employers to offer flexible working arrangements.”

The Bank of England is due to announce its next rates decision on 30 January and signs of weakness in job creation saw two of the bank’s monetary committee members vote for lower borrowing costs at the end of last year.

Thomas Pugh, an economist with consultancy Capital Economics, said: “The rebound in employment and slightly softer pay growth will give the MPC another reason not to cut rates from 0.75% to 0.50% at their next meeting.”

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “With interest rates near to historical lows, there is little to be gained from further rate cuts. Instead the focus should be on using the upcoming budget to support firms looking to recruit and grow their business. Ministers should ease upfront business costs and comprehensively reform the apprenticeship levy.”

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