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Unemployment At Near Record Low Despite Skills Fears

12 Apr 09:00 by Daniel Cave

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The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that UK unemployment has unexpectedly fallen between November and January.

ONS figures show that 402,000 more people have moved into employment over the last year. In the last three months to January, 168,000 more people entered work.

And, whilst the actual number of unemployed rose, the headline unemployment rate refers to numbers of the British workforce who want a job but don’t have one. This rate fell from 4.4% to 4.3% of the British working population.

Matt Hughes, a senior statistician at the ONS, commented on what changes the UK economy was experiencing.

"Employment and unemployment levels were both up on the quarter, with the employment rate returning to its joint highest ever. Economically inactive’ people – those who are neither working nor looking for a job – fell by their largest amount in almost five and a half years.”

However, recruitment industry figureheads are wary of the latest announcements. Lee Biggins, Managing Director of CV-Library, notes that despite record levels of employment many employers are struggling to find the right candidates.

He said: “The employment rate is at its highest and while this is good news for the economy, many employers are struggling to find the talent they need to plug the skills gap.

“Our own data found that advertised jobs were up by 11.2% in January 2018 compared to the previous year, yet candidate appetite is failing to keep up with employer demand.”

David Clift, HR Director at jobs board totaljobs is in agreement with Biggins. He added that whilst the ONS figures might indicate employment marketplace positivity, they don’t show the true state of skills in the UK economy – which is what employers need to focus on.

“In these challenging times, employers can look to focus on their training and development programmes,” Clift explained, “to ensure they’re filling their roles with skilled employees and doing their best to retain top talent.” 

With the UK economy entering, what Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK, calls the fourth industrial revolution – relying on new tech for productivity, growth and profit – the focus on skills is integral.

“The UK is in a war for talent. Businesses need to consider how the future workplace needs to adapt so that we can continue to attract, retain and develop top talent into the UK economy,” Weston added.