REC response to ONS labour market statistics, May 2019

Tuesday’s labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% in January to March 2019 – it has not been lower since October to December 1974. There were an estimated 1.30 million unemployed people, 119,000 fewer than for a year earlier.


The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than for a year earlier (75.6%) and the joint-highest figure on record. 32.70 million people were in employment, 354,000 more than for a year earlier.


The number of vacancies was estimated at 846,000 for February to April 2019, 28,000 more than a year earlier but 15,000 fewer than for November 2018 to January 2019.


Commenting on the figures, Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) director of policy and campaigns Tom Hadley said:
“Tuesday’s figures continue to show a thriving jobs market, with employment still at a record high and unemployment continuing to fall. The major challenge for employers is finding the right candidates, which is why recruitment professionals continue to work flat out to fill roles across all sectors of the economy.


“However, there are signs that employers are starting to be more cautious, as both these official statistics and Report on Jobs data show that vacancy numbers are starting to drop. This will need to be monitored but is also important to note that with 80 per cent of employers working at close to full capacity, according to REC data, any upturn in business confidence would lead to a further surge in demand for staff. 


“Whilst Tuesday’s data is once again positive, we must focus on quality and well as quantity of work and boost progression opportunities for all. The UK’s £35.7 billion recruitment sector is committed to playing its role in creating a genuine ‘progression nation’, where all workers have an equal opportunity to develop skills and find good work.”