The UK unemployment rate stayed at its near-record low level of 3.8 per cent in the three months to April, according to official statistics released today, as the jobs market shrugged off Brexit uncertainty.
Read more: UK economy shrinks by 0.4 per cent in April
Record numbers in work helped push up wages, which rose 3.4 per cent in the three months to April. This was up from 3.3 per cent in three months to March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The figures will please policymakers after suggestions from some economists that Britain’s bright jobs picture may have turned in April as prolonged political uncertainty took a toll.
Yesterday’s GDP figures from the ONS revealed the UK economy shrank by 0.4 per cent in April as car production collapsed.
Yet Britain’s unemployment rate has not been lower since the end of 1974, the ONS said.
The wage increase beat the expectations of economists, who had predicted a rise of 3.1 per cent. It takes the real wage rise – which is adjusted for inflation – to 1.5 per cent.
Sterling ticked upwards against the dollar following the news, surpassing the $1.27 level it fell through yesterday. It had climbed 0.3 per cent to buy $1.272 shortly after 10am UK time.
Yet the number of vacancies fell in the three months to May, the ONS said, indicating that the rate of employment could soon slow.
ONS deputy head of labour market statistics Matt Hughes said: “Overall, the labour market continues to be strong, with employment still at a joint record rate. However, while the number of vacancies remains high, it has fallen back slightly from the historic highs seen at the turn of the year.”
“With employment growth among women coming from full-timers, the overall gap between men and women in hours worked is now the lowest ever,” he said.
Employment minister Alok Sharma said: “With wage growth increasing pace on last month, outstripping inflation for the 15th month in a row, and record high female employment – the Government’s focus on pro-business policies and balanced economic management is delivering opportunity for all.”
Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: “The buoyant labour market is still going strong for the UK economy, even as it weathers widespread political uncertainty.”
“Businesses’ avid appetite for new hires has drawn many out of unemployment and inactivity into work, which has provided uplift to household incomes,” he said.
He added: “However, the employment boom cannot last forever, and is certainly showing signs of softening. Business leaders are finding it harder to recruit as the supply of talent shrinks, and wage growth has failed to sustain the heights we saw earlier this year.”