Danny McCance 15 May 2019 10:03am

Unemployment lowest since 1974

UK unemployment for January to March 2019 sat at 3.8%, the lowest it’s been since 1974

With 1.3 million people unemployed, the numbers were 119,000 lower than in the same period last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The UK employment rate for the period was 76.1%, a 0.5% year-on-year increase – the joint-highest since comparable records began in 1971.

From January to March 2019, 32.7 million people ages 16 to 64 were in paid employment, 354,000 more than during the same period in 2018.

The figure for employment was at 80.3% for men (up from 80.0% the year before) while unemployment was at 3.9%.

Employment among women was at 71.8%, the joint-highest since comparable records began in 1971,while unemployment was at 3.7%.

The ONS attributed the changes in employment figures for women to be partily due to a change in the state pension age for women.

Meanwhile, wages for the same period crept up year-on-year, with weekly earnings excluding bonuses increasing 1.5% (after adjustment for inflation) for employees in Great Britain – this was at 1.3% including bonuses.

However, Mike Jakeman, senior economist at PwC pointed to “hints of some softness” in the labour market following previous months of “unambiguously good news”.

“Wage growth, which has been steadily marching upwards, slowed in March,” he said.

He suggested that these figures could have been affected by Brexit, with March being “the month when Brexit anxiety was at its most acute”, but added that the Labour Market is “one of the best performing aspects of the economy”.

Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors, said the jobs market “remains in fine fettle”, although he also indicated that salaries growth was lower than expected “given the prevailing low rates of unemployment”.

He noted that many businesses were facing challenge including “higher costs and weak productivity growth, which limits their wiggle room to up pay packets”.

Earlier this week, predictions from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggested that while employment figures are set to rise, salaries will remain stagnant, with many employers holding back on rises for all bar new starters.