UK unemployment at 11-year low, but figures conceal problem at heart of economy, say TUC

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The latest set of labour market figures published this week show UK unemployment fell by 37,000 to 1.6 million in the three months to September, hitting an 11-year-low.

The jobless rate fell to 4.8 per cent in the same period, while the number of people in work went up by 49,000. The new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also show that average weekly earnings grew by 2.3 per cent in the year to October including bonuses and by 2.4 per cent excluding bonuses.

But the falling jobless figures conceal a huge problem at the heart of the economy, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC), who say the weakest growth in real wages since early 2015 means the government must act on the threat to living standards.

Commenting on the latest labour market figures, which show pay rising by 2.3 per cent, but higher inflation bringing real wages down to 1.7 per cent, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Real pay growth is the slowest it’s been since early 2015. Wages are not growing fast enough to withstand the rise in inflation expected next year.

“Without swift action from the government, working people could soon be paying the price for Brexit with another fall in living standards.

“The chancellor must use the Autumn Statement to boost jobs and wages by investing in rails, roads, new homes and clean energy. And he must give a direct boost to pay by lifting the public sector pay cap and increasing the minimum wage.”

ONS statistician David Freeman also warned there are signs the labour market might be ‘cooling’.

“Unemployment is at its lowest for more than 10 years and the employment rate remains at a record high,” said Freeman.

“Nonetheless, there are signs that the labour market might be cooling, with employment growth slowing.”

Despite the fears of the TUC, the fall in unemployment was held up by Employment Minister Damian Hinds as the mark of a strong labour market in the wake of the recent EU referendum.

He said: “Yet again we have a strong set of figures, with employment continuing to run at a record high and unemployment falling to an 11-year low.

“Growth is being fueled by full-time professional jobs while wages are continuing to perform strongly, which underlines the resilience of the UK labour market.

“The measures we have taken have put our economy in a position of strength, and we will work to ensure more people can benefit from these opportunities as we build a country that works for everyone.”