Labour Market Statistics, February 2019: Beneath the headlines, more work is needed to tackle burning injustices
19 Feb 2019
Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), comments on the February 2019 release of ONS labour market statistics.
'On the face of it, today’s jobs figures herald another month of good news in the labour market. Even by the standards of recent months, these are good numbers - with the employment rising by 170 thousand in the last three months alone, the employment rate continuing to break records and now nudging 76%, and unemployment falling again to just 4%. On the pay front, earnings have grown strongly again - by 3.4% - and low inflation means that ‘real’ pay has grown by more than 1% for the third month in a row.
'However, beneath these headlines there are some reasons to be less cheerful - with signs that the recent strong growth in the labour market is not being shared by everyone.
'First, data released today shows that employment of ethnic minority groups actually fell over the last three months (by 20 thousand) while employment of white people increased by 180 thousand. This was driven in particular by falls in employment for the three largest non-white ethnic groups (Indian, Pakistani and Black African or Black Caribbean). This means that the ‘gap’ in employment rates for ethnic minorities has now risen, and stands at more than 11 percentage points.
'Secondly, new data today shows that the gap in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people has remained unchanged in the last three months - standing at 30.2%. So even while disability employment has risen, the inequalities faced by disabled people in work have not narrowed.
'And thirdly, despite falling unemployment, long-term unemployment appears to be stuck at around 350 thousand. One in four unemployed people have been out of work for more than a year - a rate that is significantly higher than during the 2000s, where it reached as low as one in five during the middle of the decade.
'Taken together, today’s figures show that we have much further to go in addressing the “burning injustices” that many people face in accessing the labour market. And with 870 thousand unfilled vacancies, there is significant scope for government and employers to do more to bring more people into the labour market.'
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