Is the UK's recent labour market boom finally running out of steam?

Press Releases

15 Nov 2017

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, comments on today's ONS Labour Market Statistics:

'Most of the key indicators of labour demand have worsened slightly in the latest official labour market statistics. This is unsurprising, given the poor recent figures on GDP growth.

‘Total employment and total hours worked are both down on the previous quarter. Total unfilled vacancies for the period from August to October are also down on the previous three month period from July to September 2017. On the positive side, unemployment has continued to fall, and we now have the lowest official unemployment rate since the mid-1970s. However, this would normally follow changes in employment with a bit of a lag, so we might expect unemployment to start drifting up in the next few months.

‘It is notable that the other main indicator of worklessness in the working-age population (economic inactivity) has been increasing recently to 21.6 per cent. Indeed, today’s statistics release shows the largest quarterly increase in economic inactivity since the three months to January 2010. While it is early days, and the next few months’ statistics will be needed to confirm this, these data certainly raise the question of whether the long and sustained recent labour market boom is finally running out of steam.’


Notes: This article was amended at midday on 15 November to clarify movements in the total number of unfilled vacancies. 

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About the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

The Institute for Employment Studies is a leading independent, not-for-profit centre for research and evidence-based consultancy on employment, the labour market, and HR policy and practice.

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About Nigel Meager

Nigel is a labour economist by training, and a well-established international expert on labour market and employment policy issues. He has worked at IES since 1984, following posts at the Universities of Bath and Glasgow. He has been Director of the Institute since 2004. He has a long and varied research track record covering the functioning of national, regional and local labour markets, unemployment, skill shortages, labour market flexibility, changing patterns of work and equal opportunity policies and practices.