UK Employment Figures, May 2019: Unemployment Rate Falls to New 44-Year Low of 3.8%

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Rising EU migration welcome reprieve for employers in tight labour market.

Brexit or no Brexit, the UK remains attractive to migrant workers. While net migration from Europe fell sharply after the June 2016 referendum, in the past year the number of EU nationals working in the UK rose by nearly 100,000. This coincides with a pick-up in online searches by EU-based jobseekers for British jobs on Indeed since 2018.

The economic imperatives for this renewed interest are clear. With the UK’s unemployment rate falling yet again to 3.8%, a level not seen since 1974, and the employment rate remaining at a joint record high of 76.1%, there is little spare capacity in the labour market – and the gap is being filled by foreign workers who see the chance to make a living in Britain.

However, not all sectors are enjoying the benefits of the supply of foreign workers to meet demand from employers. Indeed’s data shows that interest from EU-based jobseekers looking for British construction jobs has plunged by 44% since 2015, while searches for UK farming and transportation roles are down by almost a third.

Employers looking to fill those roles need to think about ways to attract and retain staff, such as broadening their search and looking to hire from domestic demographic groups that are still under-represented in the labour market, despite progress made in recent years. Raising pay is another strategy to consider: ONS figures show annual growth in average weekly earnings slowing down to 3.3% against a backdrop of weak productivity, giving better-performing employers a chance to offer an attractive package.

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