UK jobs growth rises at fastest rate in 43 years

Jobs growth between January and March rose to a 43-year high, driving down the unemployment rate to its lowest level in more than five years, reports The Telegraph.

The number of people in work rose to 30.43m – a record high – and almost a quarter of million up on the same period last year.

The unemployment rate dipped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.8pc and the number of people out of work in the quarter fell by 133,000 to 2.21m compared with the previous three-month period. At the same point last year unemployment stood at 2.52m.

Self-employment has been a key reason behind both the rise in the number of people in work and the lower jobless rate. Almost one in seven people – some 4.55m – are now self-employed the highest level since records began in 1971. The number of people working for themselves has risen by 375,000 over the past year.

Commentators suggest that the increase in the number of self-employed people has been boosted by those setting up on their own after redundancy but acknowledge the evidence is largely anecdotal. Many of these people working for themselves are not able to get enough work, with 1.29m of them working part time, though for many this is a matter of choice.

Aengus Collins, UK analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: “The latest numbers confirm the rapid and continuing improvement of the headline labour market numbers, with unemployment now at a five-year low. However, just as the recession of the last few years was no ordinary recession, so the recovery is displaying some curious patterns.

“This is particularly true of labour market conditions. The UK’s unemployment rate fell to 6.8 per cent, but we have concerns about the profile of the jobs that are driving this. The increasing use of zero-hours contracts is well documented by now, but one of the labour-market developments that can get overlooked by discussion of the headline employment growth numbers is the rapid rise since the crisis of the number of self-employed people in the UK.

“The recovery of total employment since the crisis has been driven by rising self-employment. Given the backdrop, this is less likely to represent a surge in entrepreneurial dynamism than a fall-back strategy for people who lost jobs during the crisis.”