Unemployment Down but Job Growth May Slow

employment-headerThe unemployment rate in the UK has fallen over the first quarter of 2016, albeit modestly, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, the official statistical body has also warned that job creation could soon slow, as there is evidence that “the jobs market could be cooling off.”

In the period from January to March, unemployment fell by 2,000 compared to the previous quarter. This took the total number of jobless individuals in the UK to 1.69 million This puts the UK’s unemployment rate at the 5.1% mark, which means unemployment is currently holding steady at the lowest rate of the past decade.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits was down last month to 737,800, which represents a decrease of 2,400. The most detailed data shows that things have been slightly more in this area over the year to date. Between February and March, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits experienced the biggest increase since 2011, rising by 14,700.

The employment rate rose by 44,000 over the first quarter of the year, meaning that there were a total of 31.58 million people in employment. This brings the UK’s employment rate up to 74.2%, a record high.

While the employment rate may have hit its highest levels yet, the ONS believes that the UK’s employment market may be about to slow. David Freeman, one of the organisation’s senior statisticians, said that the increase in employment was “quite modest” and that “with unemployment very little changed, that is further evidence that the jobs market could be cooling off.”

The first quarter of this year may have seen overall employment rise, but it also saw the number of available jobs fall for the first time in nearly a year. Available jobs fell to 745,000, an fall of roughly 18,000.

Average earnings were up by 2% in the three months to March compared to the same period a year earlier. This represents slight acceleration in earnings growth, compared to 1.9% in the three months to February. However, the ONS remains cautious in reporting this. The report notes that this is based on earnings including bonuses, and the timing of bonuses this year affected the figures.

When bonuses are excluded from these figures, on the other hand, earnings are still growing but the rate slowed instead of growing faster. The three months to February saw earnings before bonuses rise by 2.2%, but for the three months to March the figure is 2.1%.