UK job vacancies down, but income rises still lower than inflation – ONS

The number of UK job vacancies fell by 75,000 in the last quarter of 2022 but remains at historically high levels, according to figures released today by the Office of National Statistics.

The number of employees on payroll increased slightly by 28,000, putting the salaried workforce above pre-pandemic levels. The rate of economic inactivity dropped by 0.1%. The number of redundancies increased to 3.4 per thousand jobs, but remains low.

The national unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points over the quarter to 3.7%, but fell over the full year. Unemployment is highest in the North East (4.7%) and lowest in the South West (2.1%).

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the East Midlands – which hit a record low of 2.4% in summer 2022 before steadily climbing since – remained below the UK average.

The proportion of working-age people in the region who are not in jobs rose slightly from 3.3% to 3.4% in the three months to November.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “After an upwards trajectory in the level of unemployment since the summer – although against a context of still being at historically low levels – it is reassuring to see this curve begin to flatten in recent months.

“However, our own research suggests unemployment levels may not remain so low in the future. Our final Quarterly Economic Survey of the year, which ran throughout November, found there was an 8% decline from quarter to quarter in the proportion of East Midlands businesses that added to their workforce in the previous three months, while there was a similar drop-off in recruitment prospects over the coming three months.

“Clearly, the cost-of-doing-business crisis – led by rising costs in energy, interest rates, raw materials, people and fuel – has deeply affected business confidence to invest, and a lack of available skills in the labour market is now impacting significantly on firms’ ability to grow.”

Average nominal wages across the UK increased by 6.4% between September and November 2022, but fell by 2.6% in real terms, when adjusted for inflation. Nominal wages in the private sector (7.2%) were more than double the nominal rises in the public sector (3.3%).

Matthew Percival, the CBI’s director for People and Skills, said: “The continued evidence of younger and older workers returning to employment is welcome news. There are early signs of softening in the labour market, but many businesses are still struggling to hire and record pay growth is not yet easing the cost of living crisis.

“The Government needs to pull every lever to ease shortages and strengthen the case for the business investment that is needed to drive growth and living standards. This means helping more people to overcome the barriers like the cost and availability of childcare or ill-health that are preventing them from working, and updating the Shortage Occupations List.”

Labour disputes saw 467,000 working days lost in November – the highest since November 2011.

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