Professor Warhurst is a Principal Research Fellow at Warwick University: “The new ONS labour market data shows that in the immediate term, the UK labour market has improved slightly. If a sustained economic growth is to be achieved, however, more needs to be done in the medium and longer-term to further raise employment rates and lower rates of unemployment and inactivity.
“The good news is that more people of working age have jobs. The number of people in work continues to rise, hitting a new high. There are now 73.5 percent of people aged 16 to 64 in work which is one percentage point higher than the same period last year. And, moreover the figure has risen above the pre-downturn peak of 2008 (73.0 percent). Worryingly, the unemployment rate for younger adults aged 16-24 years was 15.9 percent; again only slightly lower than for October to December 2014 (16.2 percent).”
Dr Sofroniou added: “The new data also shows that the proportion of the economically active population who were unemployed (the unemployment rate) fell – but only marginally – to 5.5 percent, only slightly lower than the 5.7 percent for the last period (October to December 2014). Moreover the proportion of people economically inactive is also now only slightly lower at 22.1 percent.
These small differences suggest that policies aimed at getting more people into work have had minimal net success. If this trend continues this lack of real impact on the unemployed and inactive may become a problem for sustaining economic growth, particularly if the UK’s ageing population move into retirement or part-time work.
“The real leap in the figures is the increase in non-UK nationals, reflecting the admission of several new EU member states. The proportion of all people working in the UK consisting of non-UK nationals showed an increase from 3.5 percent to 10.0 percent. While this is a marked rise, it can be helpful to the UK economy. It is likely that a mixture of getting more of the existing inactive population into work, increased productivity and the migration of skilled workers from overseas will be required to maintain a workforce that sustains economic growth in the medium term and which is able to fund the increased social and health costs of the older UK population.”