As Employment Minister in the Government, the monthly jobs figures released by the independent Office for National Statistics (ONS) are, of course, a focus of interest for me. For some time the jobs market has been buoyant and the figures released this month demonstrate the continuing resilience of the jobs market.
There are more people in work today than ever before and the UK’s employment rate has never been higher at 76.1%. The unemployment rate is at 3.9%, the lowest since the 1970s. The number of women in employment is also at a record high rate and the youth unemployment has almost halved compared to in 2010. And since 2010 employment has risen in every region and nation of the UK with overall employment up by over 3.6 million.
As a part of the jobs figures, the ONS also releases figures on wage growth and it is especially pleasing to see wages growing at a faster rate than inflation for the thirteen month in a row.
Of course more jobs being created is a good thing, but the type of jobs being created is also vitally important. Again, according to the independent ONS’s analysis of the jobs created since 2010 around 80% are full-time, around 75% are permanent roles and around 75% are in higher skilled occupations which attract higher wages. Most of the rise in jobs in the past year has been driven by full-time and permanent roles.
From time to time I have constituents writing to me asking about the statistics on zero-hour contracts. The Government has rightly banned the use of exclusivity in zero-hour contracts and, according to the ONS, less than 3% of workers in our economy are on zero-hours based roles. In fact the number of zero-hours jobs has fallen over the past year. Someone on a zero-hours contract works 24 hours a week on average and, according to analysis, are just as likely to be satisfied with their job as other workers.
Recent actions and policies have demonstrated that the Government is committed to reforming employment law and practices so they keep pace with modern ways of working created by rapid technological change, whilst ensuring we strike the right balance between labour market flexibility and worker protections. For the first time the Government is making itself accountable for good quality work as a well as the quantity of jobs, which is a key ambition of the UK’s industrial strategy.