UK Employment Figures, February 2020: Employment and Pay Hit New Highs but Wage Growth Slows Again

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Average weekly earnings adjusted for inflation finally surpass their pre-crisis peak.

Britain’s labour market hasn’t lost its ability to surprise. Another month of breathless progress has seen it power to a new record employment rate of 76.5% and push average earnings excluding bonuses up to £512 per week.

Amid all the back-patting that this latest jobs data will trigger, it’s worth calling out a small but significant milestone. Adjusted for CPIH inflation, average earnings have finally edged past the pre-crisis peak reached in 2008.

Yet, for all its positives, this is far from a ‘straight A’ jobs report. At 3.2%, the annual pace of growth in average earnings excluding bonuses is slowing and remains relatively modest. This is, perhaps, not a huge surprise, given that GDP stagnated in the final quarter of 2019. Flatlining economic growth bodes ill for pay rises.

But these concerns aside, there are real achievements to be celebrated. More people are in work than ever before and the number of job vacancies is slowly rising once again, as the labour market continues to generate new job opportunities and tempt people into the workforce.

Rising tides lift all boats. The UK jobs boom has led to a record number of both UK-born and non UK-born people in employment, as well as a record level of employment for women.

Non-UK born people represent almost 18% of those employed in the UK, a proportion that has remained remarkably stable over the past three years. The number of EU-born workers has been flat, while the number of non-EU born workers has increased steadily as the UK progressed towards record employment.

Indeed’s data from the past three years shows that while interest in UK jobs declined among candidates in Poland and Ireland — both economies in relatively rude health — jobseekers in France, Italy and Spain have remained largely undeterred.

January’s Brexit Day did not affect these trends. Indeed data shows that interest in UK jobs among EU-based candidates remained stable over that long-expected deadline, with education, language and tech roles dominating the most popular jobs most dependent on European candidates.

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