Data released today by the Office for National Statistics show that the UK unemployment rate fell again during the three months to June, and now stands at 6.4%, down from 6.5% over the three months to May. The figures show that there are now 2.08 million unemployed, 437,000 fewer than a year ago. However, wages including bonuses fell 0.2% over the three months to June, compared to a year earlier

The employment rate for those aged 16 to 64, for the three months to June 2014 compared to the three months to March 2014, showed increases for most of the regions and countries of the UK.

The largest increase in the employment rate was for the East Midlands at 1.0 percentage points. The latest estimate (74.0%) compares with an estimate for the three months to March (73.0%) and it is likely that the growth across the whole period has been steadier than suggested by these latest estimates.

The only decrease in the employment rate was for Wales at 0.9 percentage points. The latest estimates for Wales have been below the record high levels recorded towards the end of last and start of this year. The large decrease in employment has been accompanied by a large increase in inactivity, rather than unemployment.

With the exception of Wales, all other regions of the UK are either showing general increases in employment rates over recent periods or are fairly flat, increasing over the last year. For the North East, East Midlands and London the annual increase is statistically significant.

Employment rates remain higher in the South East at 76.7%, the East of England at 76.6% and the South West at 76.1% than the rest of the UK.

The employment levels for the North East, London and Scotland are all at record highs, with many other regions close to record highs. Despite this the rates for many regions remain below previous records due to increasing population levels. For London and the North East, however, the employment rates are at record highs of 72.6% and 70.0% respectively.

Zero hours contracts

Women make up a greater proportion of those reporting working on zero-hours contracts (54%); compared with those employed who are not on zero-hours contracts (46%).

People who report being on a zero-hours contract are more likely to be younger. 37% of people on zero-hours contracts are aged 16 to 24, compared with 12% for those employed who are not on zero-hours contracts.

64% of people on zero-hours contracts reported that they worked part time, compared with just over a quarter (27%) of those employed who are not on zero-hours contracts.

People who report being on a zero-hours contract are more likely to be working in Accommodation & Food Services or Health & Social Work. Relatively few work in Financial, Insurance and Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities and Production (including Agriculture).

The average actual weekly hours worked by people in employment who report being on a zero-hours contract is 22 hours compared with 32 hours for all workers. The average usual weekly hours is higher at 24 hours (37 hours for all workers).

The CBI commented on the latest ONS labour market data for the three months to June, showing that unemployment fell by 132,000 to 2.1 million, while youth unemployment fell to 16.9%. But with 767,000 young still people out of work more needs to be done.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “It’s encouraging to see the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest since 2008 with far more opportunities being created for young people.

“While disappointing this month, we would expect wage growth to pick up over time, but this can only go hand-in-hand with improving productivity.

“The latest figures are very upbeat, but we cannot ignore the fact that far too many young people are still out of work. Youth unemployment was rising even in the good times and is still high enough to fill Wembley Stadium over eight times.

“We cannot squander the talent of a generation and leave them at the back of the queue in life. Young people should be equipped with the skills they need to succeed and given the chance to show what they’re made of.

“Business, government and schools must do more to increase opportunities for young people to make their way in work and life. We also need a network of Back to Work Coordinators across the country who can bring together the well-intentioned but confusing web of support and advice that currently exists to help young people back into employment. A tailored, more personal approach is what’s needed and is sadly what the current system lacks.

“The Low Pay Commission has done well to strike the right balance between protecting jobs whilst ensuring those on the minimum wage benefit as the economic recovery takes hold, so it’s vital it is allowed to steer clear of any political interference.”

Ian Brinkley, chief economist at Lancaster University’s Work Foundation said: “The Janus-faced labour market recovery continues. We have strong employment numbers, a significant drop in unemployment, and a sharp fall in the number of people in part time jobs who say they would like full time work – which suggests the recovery is at last making in-roads into under-unemployment.

“But the wage data is dismal. Growth in regular pay – excluding bonuses – measured by weekly average earnings is weakening across all sectors. Bonus pay was down even more. As a result, total pay measured by weekly annual earnings actually fell by 0.2 percentage points comparing the three months to June 2014 with the same three months a year ago.

“It is hard to see where the pay revival is going to come from – and until real wages start to grow again, it will not feel like much of a recovery to most people in work.”