Thursday, September 14, 2017

Employment rate at highest levels since records began


Jim said...

1 - how many of them employed?

2 - and how many of them full time, on permanent contracts

3 - Why, why cant 1 wage support a family anymore like it could when I was little?

4 - so 379,000 people more people start a full time job than lose or retire from a full time job.

Anonymous said...

More people under-employed than ever before.

Jim said...

You know me, no one gets a free ride, and I think they are decent and honest questions. I would expect an answer from any self respecting politician.

Chris Whiteside said...

Without wishing to imply that politicians are not self-respecting you might to better in several of those cases to ask a statistician rather than a politician. There is a lot of published data about the latest employment and Labour force figures in the September Labour force bulletin at the ONS site at

but here are some of your answers.

Chris Whiteside said...

First of all, in answer to the suggestion that more people are under-employed than ever before, this does not bear any relation to the facts about the actual number of hours worked. The Labour bulletin states in Section 6 on actual hours worked that, quote

"Between February to April 2017 and May to July 2017, total hours worked per week increased by 4.4 million to 1.03 billion."

Chris Whiteside said...

The ONS says that "There were 32.14 million people in work, 181,000 more than for February to April 2017 and 379,000 more than for a year earlier"

They also say that there were 5.44 million people employed in the public sector and 26.70 million people employed in the private sector for June 2017. This was:

•167,000 more than for March 2017
•365,000 more than for a year earlier

Chris Whiteside said...

The ONS September Economic Commentary includes the following:

"UK employment level reached a new record high

The number of people in work in the UK increased by 181,000 in the 3 months to July 2017 to a new record high of 32.1 million, following 3 consecutive quarters (including the current quarter) of growth. The employment rate reached a new record high of 75.3% (up 0.5 percentage points) in the quarter. The number of employees and self-employed both increased in the 3 months to July 2017 and are also at record levels (27.1 million and 4.8 million respectively).

In addition, full time employment increased by 96,000 in the quarter to a record high of 23.6 million, and part-time employment increased by 86,000 in the quarter to 8.5 million.

The increase in employment coincides with a fall in inactivity. The total inactivity level decreased by 107,000 since the 3 months to April 2017, while the inactivity rate declined by 0.3 percentage points to a record low of 21.2%. These latest figures highlight some strengths in the UK labour market.

Total weekly hours increased by 1.5% in the 3 months to July 2017 (up 15.7 million hours) compared with a year earlier, coinciding with the recent growth in employment.

The majority (72.1%) of all people in employment worked 31 hours or more as their usual weekly hours. The average weekly hours for full-time workers remained unchanged at 37.5 hours.

The average weekly hours for those on zero hour contracts were 21.4 hours in the 3 months to June 2017, higher than for part-time workers who worked 16.3 hours on average during the same period.

Chris Whiteside said...

So the answers to Jim's questions are

1) 32.1 million if you count self-employed people, 27.1 million if you do not.

2) There were 23.6 million employed full time and this increased by 96,000 in the past quarter, I cannot tell you how many of those were on short-term contracts but according to the Times this morning, the number of people on zero-hours contracts has reached a plateau.

3) It isn't impossible. I supported a family on one salary for twelve years between about 2002 and 2014. I'll agree that it is harder, which I put down to higher transport and housing costs.

4) No, according to this morning's Times newspaper, full-time employment accounted for 313,000 of the 379,000 extra jobs compared with a year ago, so part time employment must have been up by 66k.

Chris Whiteside said...

Incidentally, the ONS also publishes a measure of underemployment, indicating how many more hours people in work would like to work, and this has now dropped back to a similar level to that which applied just before the 2007/8 crash.

So the weight of evidence is that Britain is experiencing strong demand for labour and are doing well in getting people into work, including full-time work for those who want it.

Where we are not doing well is increasing the productivity of people who are in work, and this in turn is one of the major reasons why Britain's performance in increasing real incomes is much less satisfactory than our performance in getting people into work.

To address this we need incentives for companies to invest, more flexible and dynamic management, and better training.

Anonymous said...

British management has always been the problem, and still is.

Chris Whiteside said...

I think the comment to the effect that "British management has always been the problem" is a gross oversimplification. There is no one simple cause of the problem and there is no one simple solution.

Some - not all - British companies are badly managed. Some of their decisions certainly contribute to Britain's productivity problems. If we could improve the quality of management some of the consequences might include more investment, more R&D, more innovative policies and higher productivity. To that extent I go along with the direction the author of the anonymous comment above is pointing in.

However, the idea that all British companies are badly managed or that everything affecting poor productivity is down to management is as facile and incomplete as an explanation as it would have been had I written that it was all down to lazy workers and stupid trade unions (which I did not write and do not believe.)

Anonymous said...

If there are no consequences for incompetence then incompetence becomes systemic, Cumbria CC is a fine example of that.

Chris Whiteside said...

There are always consequence for incompetence, though these are not always as effective in changing behaviour as they should be.

Systemic incompetence cannot exist indefinitely in the private sector because it eventually results in the bankruptcy of the organisation concerned.

It is a challenge for the public sector to ensure that lessons are learned from mistakes and there have been events this year in Cumbria which reinforce the need for this to happen.