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December 2018

The labour market figures published on 11 December are surprisingly good news given the slowing labour market apparent in the numbers in recent months. However, claimant unemployment continues to rise, and it appears is likely to already be at one million. The figures for claimant unemployment this month will be announced in January.

View analysis for December 2018.

  • Unemployment is 1,380,000, down by 1,000 from last month’s published figure (quarterly headline up by 20,000) and the unemployment rate 4.1%, no change on last month and up 0.1 percentage points on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 992,600, which has risen by 21,900 on last month, and the claimant rate is 2.8%.
  • The number of workless young people (not in employment, full-time education or training) is 946,000, down 36,000 on the quarter, representing 13.5% of the youth population and fell by 0.5 percentage points.
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 499,000, up by 10,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.6 unemployed people per vacancy. Learning and Work Institute estimates this figure may rise next month.
  • The employment rate is 75.7% and has risen by 0.2 percentage points on last month’s published figure and is also up by 0.2 percentage points in the preferred quarterly measure.

Duncan Melville, chief economist at Learning and Work Institute, commented:

Given continuing Brexit related economic uncertainty, today’s numbers are unexpectedly positive. Santa Claus has clearly visited the new DWP Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, early this year.

Employment was up substantially in the quarter, August to October 2018 compared to May to July 2018 (by 79,000). There is also very welcome news on economic inactivity amongst people of working age which fell by 95,000 in the same quarter. This contrasts with the substantial quarterly increases seen earlier in the year. This fall is largely driven by a decline in the number of people who are economically inactive due to long term sickness. Also, of positive note is the fact that the percentage of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job has dipped below 11% for the first time since the last quarter of 2008. One benefit of a stronger labour market is that more people can find the sort of working arrangements that they prefer.

Read comment in full.


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Chart 1: UK unemployment (ILO)

The latest unemployment figure is 1,380,000. It has has fallen by 1,000 from the figure published last month. If it followed the later claimant count figures of Universal Credit and Jobseeker's Allowance, Learning and Work Institute estimates that unemployment may rise, although this remains highly uncertain. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1%.

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Chart 16: Employment rate in the UK

The employment rate has risen by 0.2 percentage points over the quarter, to 75.7%.


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Chart 17: Claimants for inactive benefits and the economically inactive – inactivity benefits

The number of people inactive owing to long-term sickness fell, as did the benefit figure.

This chart shows claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, and Universal Credit due to incapacity (the orange dots), compared with survey figures for the economically inactive owing to long-term sickness.

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Chart 21: Inactivity rate quarterly change in regions – August to October 2018

Overall, there was a 0.2 percentage point fall in the inactivity rate. 6 regions showed rises in inactivity, led by Northern Ireland and the West Midlands. Northern Ireland's inactivity rate remains much higher than any other region, 7.5 percentage points above the UK and 4.2 points above the next region, the North East of England.


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