UK unemployment rate hits a 45-year low

London, May 16: UK unemployment has fallen to a 45-year low, official data showed Tuesday (May 15), with the economy holding up despite prolonged Brexit uncertainty. The unemployment rate eased to 3.8 per cent in the three months to March — the lowest level since the final quarter of 1974, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

That compared with a 44-year low of 3.9 percent in the quarter to February. “The UK labour market has been remarkably resilient in the face of Brexit-related uncertainty,” Hargreaves Lansdown senior economist Ben Brettell said in reaction to the latest data. “These are really strong numbers given the headwinds the economy is currently facing.” The ONS added that the UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1 percent, which was the joint-highest figure on record. “There are valid concerns that UK firms are hoarding labour instead of much-needed capital expenditure,” said Brettell. “Why would you invest large sums in new plant or machinery in such uncertain times, when you could hire an extra worker and get broadly the same result?”

Growth in average weekly earnings, including bonuses, meanwhile slowed to 3.2 percent in the three months to March, the ONS added. And they increased by only 1.3 percent when adjusted for inflation, down from 1.6 percent in the three months to February. “This is unwelcome news for hopes that the consumer can keep spending at a robust rate over the summer and help the economy weather prolonged Brexit uncertainties and a challenging global economic environment,” said EY ITEM Club economist Howard Archer. AFP

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