Women and young people benefit from ongoing jobs growth

UK employment has reached a record 74 per cent across the UK in the three months to November 2015, with both women and young people benefitting from continued jobs growth.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that there were 31.39 million people in work, which is 267,000 more than for the three months to August 2015 and 588,000 more than a year earlier.

Female employment hit 69.1 per cent, the highest level since comparable records began in 1971, while the employment rate for men was 79 per cent. The rate for men is slightly lower than before the economic downturn in 2008, it peaked at 79.1 per cent.

The ONS figures suggest that the record number of women now in employment is partly due to ongoing changes to the state pension age, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

Unemployment among the young has dropped fastest for people aged 18 to 24. From September to November 2015, the number of jobless young people fell by 130,000 from a year earlier.

Mark Beatson, chief economist at the CIPD, said the figures were evidence that “jobs growth in the UK has recovered”.

He welcomed the news that job prospects for young people were looking optimistic, but added: “It is important to note that unemployment has not fallen over the past year among the over-50s.

"This is partly because of increasing numbers of people in this age group, but it is also a reminder that older workers can find it especially difficult to find another job if they become unemployed,” he added.

The unemployment rate continued to fall in the three months to November, and stands at 5.1 per cent compared to 5.8 per cent in he previous quarter.

However, Steve Hill, director of external engagement at The Open University, said the 6 per cent increase in the number of unfilled vacancies was evidence that “the UK continues to face up to a worsening skills crisis”.

He said: “The skills gap is affecting everyone, holding back businesses and having a knock-on effect on British economic productivity.”

But, he added: “With up to 90 per cent of the current workforce still in work over the next decade, the right training and up-skilling could mean these individuals can become the engineers, data scientists and high-skilled digital workforce the UK needs to compete on the world stage.”

Average weekly earnings for British employees increased by 2 per cent including bonuses, down from 2.5 per cent in the three months to September, ONS figures showed.

Beatson said: “This is not surprising because the fundamental conditions required for a step change in pay growth are simply not there.

“Most employers still believe there are enough competent applicants out there to fill their vacancies, and, furthermore, productivity growth remains relatively weak."

Earlier this month, chancellor George Osborne warned employers that “a dangerous cocktail of new risks in the global economy” could upset the UK labour market in 2016.