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A record 71.8% of working-age women were in employment between January and March this year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). With the United Kingdom hovering close to full employment, the unemployment rate at its lowest since 1974 and the inactivity rate remaining low, there is very little spare capacity in the labour market – and the gap is being filled by ambitious foreign workers who see the chance to build a career in Britain.

The unemployment rate in Britain has fallen to the lowest rate since 1974, with just over a third of those joining the workforce in the previous year coming from outside the European Union.

Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees rose by 3.3%.

British Employment Minister Alok Sharma applauded the lowest unemployment rate since the 1970s, but called on workers to improve their skills in a bid to “create a modern workforce fit” for new challenges.

Mike Jakeman, senior economist at PwC, said: “It is possible to see the shadow of Brexit in some of these figures”.

Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “On the face of it, today’s jobs figures look like more of the same – the employment rate is holding steady at a record 76.1%, year-on-year earnings growth above 3%, and unemployment falling yet again, to just 3.8%”.

The strength of the labour market has pushed wages up more quickly than the Bank of England has forecast, leading some economists to think it might raise interest rates faster than investors expect once the Brexit uncertainty clears.

The unemployment rate for women has shown a smaller fall over this period – from 6.4% to 3.7%.

The ONS said that 32.71 million people were in employment, an annual rise of 354,000.

The latest data shows that over the last five years the unemployment rate for men has fallen from 7.0% to 3.9%, the ONS said.

For men the rate was 3.9%, the lowest since mid 1975. This is because falls in the employment rate for men have been roughly offset by population increases. Pension rule changes that force women nearing retirement to work longer have also had an impact.

What is happening to wages and jobs?

While average real wages – adjusted for inflation – were the highest since December 2010, the TUC said the rate of growth was slowing.

“This will come as a relief to employers who have been subjected to increasing pressure from workers to raise pay without accompanying productivity growth”, said Davies. “The last thing workers need is another hit in the pocket when real wages are still lower than a decade ago”.

“The employment rate for young people in Scotland rose to 59.3%, higher than the United Kingdom rate of 54.6%”.

By Marco Green

Source: Click Lancashire

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