Despite the Brexit uncertainty looming over the U.K. economy, Government figures show that the jobs market is booming. The office for national statistics (ONS) announced this week that the country added employment at the fastest rate in the five years leading up to Brexit.
ONS revealed on Wednesday that, after 5.3 million people had been created since the 2016 referendum result, the total number of people in employment stood at 35.6 million in the three months ending in April – an increase of more than 600,000 compared to a year ago.
The employment rate is now at 75.1%, meaning that at least 75% of people in the U.K. over the age of 16 in work. The falling unemployment rate – at 4.2% in April – is the lowest rate since 1975.
For the second month in a row, the number of long-term unemployed people fell and has now hit its lowest level since 1973, so long as people have been out of work for more than a year.
Individual nations’ results vary, but overall the picture paints a picture of steady UK jobs growth and a more positive outlook for the economy overall. In 2017, the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment in the U.K. was 7.8%, but it fell last year to 6.5%.
On the flip side, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in May was up by 9,100 – the biggest monthly rise in over a year.
Post-Brexit, the skills shortage is likely to be a significant issue for employers. The latest IJEU skills reports showed that almost two-thirds of businesses felt they were experiencing skills shortages throughout the last year. A similar percentage of employers reported that having the right skills was very important for their business, but very few felt that they had enough to fill vacancies.
This week’s growth in employment shows a nation with a rising tide of jobs but with a shortfall of vital skills, as firms struggle to find and keep skilled employees. The Government must ensure that businesses have access to enough skilled staff in the years ahead.
Immigration: A Catch-22
The number of highly skilled workers coming to the U.K. was hit by a steep drop following the referendum. The figures now remain high, with a net inward migration in 2017 of 190,000 – almost double the number of the previous year.
But some fear that immigration policy will become a key battleground for the government ahead of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, especially if any deal agreed between the EU and U.K. does not include a solution to the ongoing problem of skilled workers coming to the U.K. to work.