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UK – Number of temporary employees down 6.9%, employment at joint-highest on record

10 September 2019

The number of temporary employees in the UK fell by 6.9% on a seasonally adjusted basis to a total of approximately 1.42 million for the three-month period from May through July 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 temporary agency workers perhaps better, casual workers, seasonal workers and others in temporary work.

The number of temporary employees as a percentage of total employment was 5.1%, down from 5.6% compared to the same period a year ago.

Compared to the previous period ended in June 2019, the number of temporary employees fell by 3.4%.

Of the 1.42 million temporary employees during the period ended July 2019, approximately 356,700 were temporary because they could not find a permanent job; 410,400 did not want a permanent job; 123,800 had a contract with a period of training; and 533,200 cited other reasons.

ONS also published labour market figures for the three-month period ended July 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 3.8%; lower than the 4.0% rate last year.

By region, the highest employment rate estimate in the UK was in the South West (80.8%) and the lowest was in the North East (71.1%).

The highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK was in the North East (5.0%) and the lowest was in the South West (2.4%).

The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.8%, this is lower than a year earlier (21.2%).

Estimated annual growth in average weekly earnings for employees in the UK increased by 4.0% for total pay (including bonuses) and 3.8% for regular pay (excluding bonuses)

After adjusting for inflation, total pay is estimated to have increased by 2.1% compared with a year earlier, and regular pay (excluding bonuses) is estimated to have increased by 1.9%.

For the period from June to August 2019, there were an estimated 812,000 vacancies in the UK, 33,000 fewer than a year earlier and 23,000 fewer than for the previous quarter (March to May 2019).

ONS head of labour market statistics David Freeman commented, “The employment rate has remained fairly constant at a joint record high for some months now, while the unemployment rate was last lower at the end of 1974. Vacancies continue to fall back from recent record highs, with much of this decline coming from small businesses.”

“Including bonuses, wages are now growing at 4% a year in cash terms, for the first time since 2008. Once adjusted for inflation, they have now gone above 2% for the first time in nearly four years,” Freeman said.

Julia Kermode, chief executive of The Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, also commented, “With official vacancy numbers tumbling by 3.9% this month, this again demonstrates the current uncertainty brought about by Brexit as employers are not sufficiently confident in the future to be able to recruit for staff.  And, with temporary employment also down, it is clear that employers are not even turning to temps to get them through.”

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