These type of articles must come with a reminder of Disraeli’s warning about lies, damned lies and statistics, I think. In Disraeli’s day, the unemployed were those wanting a job but unable to find work; a simple enough concept. These days, governments in many nations have tweaked the definition of unemployment to exclude large numbers of people who might consider themselves to be either under-employed or indeed unemployed. To count as unemployed today, you must be registered as such and actively seeking work.
With the above caveats in mind, UK unemployment has fallen to a record low not seen for 42 years. The official figure for unemployment comes in at 4.4%, the best performance since 1975. The decline in the estimate was 57000 in the three months to June (although it is below the sensitivity of the estimate which has an error of ± 100000). Officially, at 75.1%, the level of those in work is the greatest seen since 1971 – more astute readers of this column will appreciate that 100% minus 75.1% does not actually come to 4.4%; as they say, the devil is in the detail.
Average UK weekly earnings increased by 2.1% over the year to August which is a slight improvement on the 2% level read the month before, however, with inflation running at 2.6% (officially), it means that purchasing power is still declining.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the current UK workforce in employment stands at 32.07 million people and 338000 individuals found work in the twelve months between June 2016 and June 2017.
If the data is to be believed, then the UK has hit “full employment” which is usually considered to be an unemployment level of <5%. This ought to mean that wages should rise above inflation as employers have to compete with one another to attract “scarce” new employees to their firms over their rivals. However, with many of the employed working on limited hours, or on “zero hour” contracts, this is not the case.