UK HR market reacts to ONS figures showing both unemployment and wage growth dropping

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has announced that from July to September 2019, UK unemployment dropped by 23,000 to 1.31 million and wage growth slowed down.

Numerous organisations in HR have reacted to the news and referenced the upcoming General Election, hoping political parties will react to this data.

Earnings that do not include bonuses increased by 3.6 per cent, compared with 3.8 per cent in the previous month.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) believe the UK economy has shown strong “resilience” in the face of Brexit uncertainty however, warning signs are starting to show.

Neil Carberry, CEO at the REC, said:

The UK labour market has shown incredible resilience in the face of uncertainty and political turmoil. This year has seen record numbers of people in work and there are big opportunities out there. But the warning signs are there in the form of slowing jobs growth and falling vacancies while REC data shows skills shortages across a number of sectors like construction and retail. This is why the election in 30 days needs to be about work. There are few things voters consider to be more important than this.

REC Report on Jobs data shows that employer confidence in the economy is at a low-point. Businesses are delaying hiring and rolling back investment plans. This is reflected in declining vacancies and rising unemployment. The next government must make reversing this trend a top priority.

This is why our manifesto asks all parties to commit to making great work happen. Putting people at the heart of the industrial strategy – including through good recruitment – is an essential part of addressing the UK’s productivity problem. Our manifesto lays out a number of policy asks which together would support and protect workers while boosting business growth.

ONS figures also showed a drop in the number of job vacancies, with a decrease of 18,000 to 800,000 jobs advertised.

Alexandra Sydney, director at Totaljobs, a UK job board said:

Yesterday’s ONS labour market stats show that vacancies have fallen, yet overall these continue to remain strong compared to historical figures. Despite a drop in the number of people in work, the employment rate is also still higher than a year ago, resulting in a candidate-led market with employers competing to attract the best talent. Our recent survey with Universum of more than 16,000 UK workers has shown that 54 per cent are looking to take advantage of this and change jobs in the next year – and a staggering 38 per cent are looking to change jobs in the next six months.

We know from our research that money isn’t always the key driver in job satisfaction – benefits including clearer progression paths, flexible working styles and making more training opportunities available should be prioritised to create better working environments. With the approaching election and economic uncertainty, employers and employees alike need to take stock of the opportunities available to them.

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library holds a more negative view of the ONS results.

Mr Biggins said:

As we approach the December general election ​and Brexit uncertainty comes to a head, the job market has clearly stagnated. Indeed, the statistics released this morning reveal that employment has weakened on the quarter, with 58,000 less people in work ​and our own data reveals that job applications dropped by 5.8 per cent during this period.

What’s more, ​the fact that the economic inactivity ​rate has increased on the quarter suggests that the confusion around our future in the EU and who will lead our country ​is forcing job seekers ​to stay put​and hold off on their job search until some political stability is certain.

With ​job vacancies also declining throughout the entire year, employers are ​appearing hesitant about their hiring efforts, which is no wonder given that further ONS data released yesterday reveals that economic growth has slowed to its lowest rate in nearly a decade.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD believes that the supply of non-EU-born workers has boosted employment growth. In regards to politics, Mr Davies was happy to see parties focusing on adult learning.

Mr Davies said:

The figures suggest that recent talk of an employment slowdown may be premature. Coupled with historically low levels of unemployment and economic inactivity, the welcome supply of more non-EU-born workers in employment has eased recruitment difficulties for some employers and boosted employment growth. In particular, the healthcare sector has benefitted because roles such as nursing are exempt from the salary requirements that other occupations face.

While labour demand still appears relatively strong, we should be cautious about the medium-term prospects for the UK labour market given the continued fall in vacancies and higher redundancy activity.

In response, it’s timely to see many political parties prioritising adult education and training, especially given the overall decline in adult learning and the number of apprenticeships. At the same time, it is vital that employers make even greater effort to invest more in their own workforce.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.