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UK – Number of temporary employees down 3.7%, unemployment lowest since 1974

14 May 2019

The number of temporary employees in the UK fell by 3.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis to a total of 1.52 million in the three-month period from January through to March 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 5.5%, down slightly from 5.8% compared to the same period a year ago.

Compared to the previous period ended in January 2019, the number of temporary employees also saw a decrease of 1.1%.

Of the 1.52 million temporary employees during the period ended March 2019, approximately 387,200 were temporary because they could not find a permanent job; 451,00 did not want a permanent job; 131,000 had a contract with a period of training; and 558,800 cited other reasons.

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

The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than for a year earlier (75.6%) and the joint-highest figure on record.

At the same time, the UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%; it has not been lower since October to December 1974.

Meanwhile, the UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.8%, lower than for a year earlier (21.1%) and close to a record low.

Average weekly earnings for employees (excluding bonuses) were estimated to have increased by 3.3%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.5%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.

Including bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees were estimated to have increased by 3.2%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.3%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.

For the period from February to April 2019, there were an estimated 846,000 vacancies in the UK, 28,000 more than a year earlier.

 Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) director of policy and campaigns Tom Hadley, commented, “Today’s figures continue to show a thriving jobs market, with employment still at a record high and unemployment continuing to fall. The major challenge for employers is finding the right candidates, which is why recruitment professionals continue to work flat out to fill roles across all sectors of the economy. However, there are signs that employers are starting to be more cautious, as both these official statistics and Report on Jobs data show that vacancy numbers are starting to drop.”

Separately today, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and The Adecco Group published its Labour Market Outlook report which found that employment growth set to continue in the second quarter but pay intentions remain subdued for most workers apart from new hires and key staff. It added that employment growth will continue to be driven by the private sector.

The report also found that despite rising recruitment and retention pressures, median basic pay expectations in the 12 months to March 2020 remain at 2%. However, pay expectations have fallen back in the private sector from 2.5% to 2% and have risen in the public sector from 1% to 1.5%.


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