October jobs figures: Largest drop in employment since 2015 and falling youth employment signals trouble ahead
15 Oct 2019
Tony Wilson, Institute Director
With the largest quarterly fall in employment since 2015 (down by 56 thousand), a further fall in vacancies and a spike in redundancies, today’s jobs figures confirm that the labour market has weakened considerably since the turn of the year. This has been on the cards for some months, and given the weight of Brexit uncertainty and poor growth figures earlier in the year, perhaps the only surprise is that the jobs figures had defied gravity for so long.
Two issues are of particular concern today. First, youth employment has continued to fall back after recent rises, falling by 70 thousand in the last quarter to its lowest level since 2013. This has been driven particularly by falls in employment among those not in education. Young people often bear the brunt when the labour market turns, so we need to redouble our efforts to support those leaving education or not in education to find good work. We will be publishing more research on this this week.
Secondly, economic inactivity – those not available or looking for work – has risen sharply this month, by 57 thousand. This has been driven particularly by rising inactivity due to long term ill health, which now stands at 2.07 million – its highest since 2016. Improving work and health has been a priority for governments for over a decade, and is a key priority of NHS England’s prevention agenda. With 1.9 million people who are economically inactive stating that they want to work, we must do more to make a reality of making work a health outcome.
At the same time as the labour market slowing however, today’s figures also show that low unemployment is still putting upward pressure on hours and on earnings – with part-time employment falling by 128 thousand this quarter (and full-time employment rising) while earnings continue to rise at close to four percent. This suggests that even as the economy slows, there is more that we can do to bring more people into the labour market – particularly those who are inactive and want to work.
Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.