According to the latest government figures from January 2017, female employment as a percentage of overall employment is at an all-time high; likewise, unemployment is at its lowest since 2006. These findings come at a time when wages have increased at their fastest pace since November 2015, leading many to wonder at the mechanisms behind the growth.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that 69.9% of women of working age – between the ages of 16 to 64 – were employed from September to October 2016, compared with 69.1% for the same period in 2015. While this 0.8% rise may not appear to be dramatic, it pushes overall female employment for this time to the highest recorded. The ONS only began to track female employment rates in 1971, but this 40-year-high appears to be a good sign of things to come.
For the same period, the ONS reported that unemployment in the UK fell to 1.6 million, meaning that 52,000 individuals found paid work during this time. This represents a jobless rate of 4.8% across the population. This number has remained steady, suggesting that new people of working age entering the job market have increased the numbers looking for work while new position were created.
An increase in the creation of positions is especially positive news for those with an eye on the markets. The creation of 52,000 new positions shows that the UK job market has survived the economic uncertainty triggered by the Brexit vote in June last year. Directly after the vote, the UK markets took a tumble and the pound lost considerable value against the euro and the dollar, both of which made industry growth less certain.
In terms of unemployment, any figure below five per cent is considered acceptable and events such as elections often cause a small fluctuation; however, the Bank of England has confirmed its expectations that the 5% or lower unemployment rate will be maintained, having previously forecast an unemployment rate of around 5.4% as an immediate result of the Brexit vote. This was due to the assumption that many companies would adopt a wait-and-see approach to change and growth; however, with further uncertainty surrounding when Article 50 would be triggered, many firms may have decided that it is business as usual.
Despite lower unemployment rates, 9,000 people below retirement age left the workforce last year; in addition, 8.89 million people of working age not accounted for as unemployed. These individuals, who are referred to as economically inactive, are not working and are not registered unemployed. Women traditionally make up the majority of these, but the statistic show change is happening.
Wage levels rose by 2.7% between September and November 2016, which is the greatest increase since August 2015. Wage increases usually offer a double knock-on effect to both employees and businesses. With more disposable income, spending increases; similarly, consumer confidence grows, allowing for the purchase of large items such as cars and homes.
It has also been recognised that higher female earnings lead to a reduction in poverty levels across the UK.
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