UK Employment Figures, April 2019: Job Growth Continues but Retail Jobs Buck the Trend

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UK economy adds almost half a million jobs over the last year despite political and economic uncertainty

Britain’s economy continues to add jobs despite uncertainty about the timing and form of Brexit, and concerns about a slowdown in global growth. Latest data show the employment rate remaining at its highest recorded level of 76.1%, while the unemployment rate stays at a 44-year low of 3.9%. The total number of people in work has risen by 457,000 compared with a year ago.

One thing stands out amid the relentless pace of job creation: unlike some of the previous surges in employment, Britain’s current employment boom was not made on the high street. Analysis of the hundreds of thousands of jobs listed on Indeed shows customer-facing retail roles have fallen steadily as a share of all vacancies. In the first quarter of 2019, they accounted for just 1.7% of job postings, down from 2.2% during the same period in 2017.

Customer-facing retail jobs have been hit as shopping patterns change and more people do more of their shopping online. The areas where retail jobs are disappearing fastest are Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Bristol and Essex. At the other end of the scale, just five areas have experienced growth in the share of these roles: County Down and Country Antrim in Northern Ireland, West Lothian and Glasgow in Scotland and Swansea in Wales.

Retail is among the most visible and relatable sectors of the economy but the data show its declining fortunes are hampering its contribution to job creation. As we head further into 2019, we will also be watching closely for any signs that overall job growth is levelling off as the number of people actively searching and available for work across the UK remains low.  

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