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UK – Number of temp employees falls, but overall employment rate at joint-highest on record

13 August 2019

The number of temporary employees in the UK fell by 5.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis to a total of approximately 1.47 million for the three-month period from April through June 2019 when compared to the same period a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Temporary workers are self-identified when surveyed by the ONS, and they include those who are on fixed-period contracts, agency temp workers, casual workers, seasonal workers and others in temporary work.

The number of temporary employees as a percentage of total employment was 5.3%, down from 5.7% compared to the same period a year ago.

Compared to the previous period ended in May 2019, the number of temporary employees also saw an increase of 0.6%.

Of the 1.47 million temporary employees during the period ended June 2019, approximately 360,800 were temporary because they could not find a permanent job; 452,000 did not want a permanent job; 132,500 had a contract with a period of training; and 530,300 cited other reasons.

ONS also published labour market figures for the three-month period ended June 2019.

The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, the joint-highest on record since comparable records began in 1971.

At the same time, the UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%; lower than the 4.0% rate last year.

The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.7%, a joint-record low.

Estimated annual growth in average weekly earnings for employees in the UK increased by 3.7% for total pay (including bonuses) and 3.9% for regular pay (excluding bonuses)

After adjusting for inflation, total pay is estimated to have increased by 1.8% compared with a year earlier, and regular pay (excluding bonuses) is estimated to have increased by 1.9%.

For the period from May to July 2019, there were an estimated 820,000 vacancies in the UK, 20,000 fewer than a year earlier and 20,000 fewer than for the previous quarter (February to April 2019).

ONS also published today its flash estimate of labour productivity for Q2, April to June 2019, based on latest data from GDP first quarterly estimate and labour market statistics.

Output per hour, the main measure of labour productivity, fell by 0.6% in Q2 compared with the same quarter in the previous year; this was a larger quarter-on-year decrease than the 0.2% seen in Q1 2019. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that productivity has had negative quarter-on-year growth rates.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, commented,  “Dropping productivity is a huge issue and will constrain the ability of the economy to sustain rising pay. Addressing skills shortages is part of the answer to this conundrum. Reforming the apprenticeship levy to help temporary workers progress is a vital part of filling gaps, but this must be paired with a sensible approach to immigration for work.”

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