UK jobless total reaches eight-year low, but with signs of a slowdown in job creation

Unemployment fell by 20,000 to 1.67m between February and April.
Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Unemployment fell by 20,000 to 1.67m between February and April. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Unemployment has fallen to an eight-year low with the number of people in work hitting another record high, according to official figures released today.

Despite concerns about an economic slowdown ahead of the EU membership referendum, the jobless total fell by 20,000 in the quarter to April to 1.67m, the lowest since the spring of 2008, the Office for National Statistics reported.

The final official labour market data ahead of the EU vote also showed that 31.5m people are in work, the most since records began in 1971.

The UK now has an employment rate of 74%, another record high, and a jobless rate of 5%, the lowest for a decade.

The narrower count of those eligible to claim unemployment-related benefits fell by a more modest 400 last month to 746,000, but is still 47,900 lower than a year ago.

Unemployment rates remained unchanged across Suffolk and north Essex last month, with only marginal changes in claimant totals.

In Suffolk, totals fell in St Edmundsbury, by 17 to 463 (a rate of 0.7%), Ipswich, by 10 to 1,475 (1.7%), and Suffolk Coastal, by six to 294 (0.4%), while in Babergh the count remained unchanged at 344 (0.7%).

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However, there were single digit increases in Mid Suffolk, up two to 363 (0.6%), Forest Heath, up three to 221 (also 0.6%), and Waveney, up seven to 908 (1.4%).

It was a similar picture in north and mid Essesx, with small increases in Tendring, up nine to 1,583 (2.1%), and Uttlesford, up five to 212 (0.4%), and falls in Colchester, down 23 to 1,164 (1.0%), Maldon, down 18 to 251 (0.7%), Chelmsford, also down 18 to 966 (0.9%), and Braintree, down 15 to 855 (also 0.9%).

Gerwyn Davies, labour market adviser at the CIPD, the profesion body for human resources and development, said the national figures did point to a slowdown in the rate of new job creation, but that this should not be attributed entirely to the referendum.

“Many commentators will cite the uncertainty about the upcoming EU referendum vote as the key reason for the slowdown in hiring,” he said.

“However, this would ignore the wider concern about a slowing economy and employers’ increasing concerns over the cost implications of the National Living Wage, pension auto-enrolment and the impending Apprenticeship Levy.

“Overall, the data makes the case for improved productivity an even more pressing concern.”

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