The latest labour market statistics reveal continued buoyancy in employment. Over the quarter to January of this year, there have been increases of 93000, 59000 and 61000 respectively in full-time employees, part-time employees and full-time self-employed workers. The unemployment rate is now 3.9%. One of the sectors that has seen a lot of recent growth is construction – with an increase in the number of jobs of some 37000 in the last quarter of 2018. This may explain some of the increase in self-employment, given the composition of employment in that sector. Other sectors that are expanding fast are transport and storage, and professional/scientific/technical services.

The news on pay is also broadly good. While the preferred (three month average) measure of total pay growth slipped slightly from an annual rate of 3.5 in December to 3.4% in January, the single month figure is up. The real value of total pay (adjusting for price inflation) is now growing at an annual rate of 1.5% on the preferred measure, and 1.9% on the single month measure.

After dipping slightly in the period to October-December last year, the total number of hours worked per week across the whole economy rose once again in the period to November-January.

The large increases in part-time employment and in self-employment need to be monitored in the months to come. Although this is not necessarily the case, increases in this type of employment can reflect an increase in job insecurity. Alongside this, it is worth noting that the number of vacancies across the whole economy is slightly down in the most recent data, and the number of redundancies is slightly up.

In sum, this is broadly an encouraging set of statistics.

About the author

Geraint Johnes

Professor of Economics, Lancaster University Management School