Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that, by historical standards, the unemployment rate remains low and the UK labour market “remains resilient”.
There is some “potentially positive news”, according to the Institute for Employment Studies, as “economic inactivity due to long-term ill health, early retirement and studies appear to be falling slightly”. However, the total number of people who have removed themselves from the labour market due to long-term ill health remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
Wages have grown at the fastest rate in more than 20 years, rising at an annual pace of 6.4 per cent between September and November, according to the ONS.
But with inflation hitting 11 per cent, this wage growth is still well below the rate of rising prices, meaning that in real terms wages fell by 2.6 per cent over the period, the largest fall in growth since comparable records began in 2001.
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This economic uncertainty and financial pressure is holding back recruitment across industries, ONS analysis found, with employers more reluctant to take on new recruits given the likelihood that the UK is in recession.
Job vacancies remain at “historically high levels”, with 1.16 million on average in October to December last year, despite having dropped by 75,000 since the summer.
Labour recently released its plan “to get Britain working again” which would involve localised employment support, opening up Jobcentres, targeting help to the over 50s, and providing “specialist support for those with ill health and make sure that work pays.”
Third sector organisations are also stepping in to provide specialist job support to people who want to work, but lack the skills or knowledge required to get a job in today’s environment.
“So many people who have never worked or been out of work for some time really struggle to get into sustainable paid employment,” said Shak Dean, a job coach at Big Issue Recruit, a specialist recruitment service supporting people into sustainable employment and calling on businesses to step up and help bridge the gap.
“Many people are held back due to a lack of digital skills, health, low confidence or previous setbacks in their life or career,” he continued. “We aim to give the opportunity to marginalised individuals to gain and maintain work in a supported environment.”
Despite record numbers of job vacancies, it is the quality of these jobs that is lacking, said Jonathan Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, in response to the new figures.
“Many people have dropped out of work entirely and employers need to do more to entice them back,” said Boys responding to the statistics
“This means creating jobs that work for people. A focus on job quality, including flexible working in all it’s guises, will facilitate the inclusion of people who may have left employment because they could not make it work for them.”
Big Issue Group has created the person-centred recruitment service,Big Issue Recruit to support people facing barriers to employment into sustainable jobs. To find out how Big Issue Recruit could help you into employment, or help your business to take a more inclusive approach to recruitment, click here.