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Region's employment rate at a record high

By James Pugh | Business | Published:

UK employment jumped to a record high in the three months to December as more women entered employment, new figures reveal.

Unemployment in the West Midlands stood at 131,000 in the three months to December

The number of people in work nationally increased by 180,000 to 32.93 million in the quarter, as the number of people deemed economically inactive also shrank, the Office for National Statistics said.

For the West Midlands there were 2.82 million in work with the employment rate at 75.5 per cent – a record high and up 2.7 percentage points in a year.

The national surge in employment resulted in the highest figure on record and was higher than analysts had predicted, with a rise of 160,000 initially forecast.

Unemployment decreased during the period, falling by 16,000 to 1.29 million, but the West Midlands – including Shropshire – saw a rise of 11,000 from the July to September period to 131,000. The figure was down 20,000 on the year. The unemployment rate was 4.4 per cent.

The numbers claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit, in the region for January were up 835 to 138,680 – or 3.8 per cent of the working population.

Shropshire saw the claimant count rise by 25 to 3,845, or two per cent of the working population.

Telford and Wrekin's claimant count was up by 20 to 3,310, or three per cent of the working population.

The figure in Powys rose by 15 to 1,365, or 1.8 per cent of the population.

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The ONS said the national employment figure was boosted by a "strong" rise in the number of women in full-time work, with an increase of 150,000 women in work for the quarter.

More women became self-employed during the quarter, the ONS said, as the proportion of women who are self-employed hit a record high.

The labour market also showed signs of improvement as job vacancies returned to growth for the first time in 11 months, rising by 7,000 to 810,000 for the quarter to January 2020.

However, wage growth continued to stall, slipping below analyst expectations, as bonuses fell.

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Total earnings increased by 2.9 per cent in December, slowing from 3.2 per cent growth in the previous month.

In the quarter to December, the ONS also recorded the largest increase in EU-born workers in the UK since March 2017, rising by 133,000 to 2.44 million.

Matt Weston, managing director at recruitment agency Robert Half UK, said: “Record employment rates continue to go from strength-to-strength in 2020. With the start of the year a key time for employees considering new opportunities at work, we expect the hiring market to remain highly competitive with employers attempting to attract highly skilled workers often juggling multiple offers at a time.

“According to our 2020 Salary Guide, 41 per cent of business leaders are concerned about their ability to attract and retain talent over the coming year, demonstrating the importance of evaluating employee remuneration packages and wider incentives now more than ever.

“Pay continues to be a core consideration for employees – with 49 per cent of UK workers intending to ask for a pay rise in the next 12 months – so businesses must get this right if they are to successfully navigate the current ‘war for talent’. That said, employers would be well-minded not to overlook the value of additional incentives such as flexible working, offering regular training and employee wellbeing benefits, in order to provide a balanced package to attract and retain the industry’s leading talent.”

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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