BRITAIN’S JOBS BOOM - THANKS TO WOMEN
As ONE MILLION more are in work since Brexit vote...
THE number of Britons in work has soared by more than a million since the Brexit vote – and women are leading the way.
Despite Project Fear predictions of huge job losses, a record 32.81 million people are in employment, up from 31.75 million in June 2016 when the EU referendum was held.
It means nearly 1,000 adults a day have joined the workforce in the past three years.
A record 15.55 million women are in work – an employment rate of 72.1 per cent. In the year to June, an extra 322,000 women took up work, while male employment rose by only 103,000 – meaning three in every four new workers were female.
At the same time, the number of stay-athome mothers has fallen to an all-time low.
The figures are in stark contrast to predictions made by the Treasury at the time of the referendum under former chancellor George Osborne. In a report dubbed the ‘dossier of doom’, Mr Osborne’s department had warned the unemployment rate would rise to 7.6 per
cent in a ‘severe shock scenario’ if Britain voted to leave the EU, saying 820,000 more would be unemployed in that event.
In fact, official figures published yesterday showed that the unemployment rate is 3.9 per cent – down from 4.9 per cent at the time of the referendum. There are now 1.33 million unemployed people in the UK – or 314,000 fewer than when the referendum was held.
The current employment rate is 76.1 per cent – its joint highest level since records began in 1971.
Brexit-backing Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘The employment figures show yet again that these previous predictions were Project Fear. These people know no more about what the future will hold than a soothsayer living out of a cave.’
The Office for National Statistics figures also showed wages are rising at their fastest rate in 11 years. The average wage is now £27,976 – 3.7 per cent higher than a year ago and the fastest growth rate since June 2008.
Wages are growing significantly faster than inflation, which stands at 2 per cent – meaning pay packets are stretching further.
Chancellor Sajid Javid said: ‘The figures are another sign that despite the challenges across the global economy, the fundamentals of the British economy are strong as we prepare to leave the EU.’
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said: ‘Women of all ages are increasingly breaking into traditionally overlooked sectors and more are taking up employment in higher-skilled roles – showing no job or industry is off limits. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see women on a building site or on the board of directors.
‘While we see a record number in work, including older women, making for the most gender and age-diverse workforce on record, we still have a long way to go to achieving equality.’
The ONS figures reveal that only 1.78million women now look after their family or home instead of working, a fall of 352,000 since the Tories came to power in 2010.
Some have been heading to wellpaid jobs once dominated by men. About 1.11 million women now work in professional, scientific and technical activities, up by 311,000 over the past nine years.
But the figures also suggest that many women are trying to juggle childcare and paid work, with a 70 per cent increase in those in parttime, self- employed roles since 2006. And 671,000 women have a second job, compared to only 466,000 men. Much of the female employment growth has been driven by a surge in the number of over-50s who are working, to a record 5.02 million women.
Some of this is likely to be due to higher numbers of women choosing to work longer because of improving health in later life. But others are likely to have been left with no choice due to increases in the female state pension age,
‘A lifeline for the economy’
which has risen from 60 to 65.
Economists last night welcomed the figures, saying they suggested demand for workers remained strong despite separate statistics earlier this month which showed the economy shrank by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year. The first quarterly decline for seven years, it is thought to have been triggered by a global slowdown and jitters ahead of Brexit.
Economists are hopeful of a return to growth this quarter, which would mean the country avoids a recession.
Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: ‘The jobs market remains a source of strength for the UK economy, though it may now be reaching its peak. High employment has proved a lifeline for the economy in a difficult period.
‘With so many people in work, solid household incomes have kept consumer spending fairly buoyant while the production and construction sectors have waned.’
Some analysts fear there could still be serious problems if Britain leaves the EU without a deal later this year, and Mrs Rudd would not rule out job losses. In November last year, the Bank of England suggested that in a worst- case scenario, the economy could shrink by 8 per cent and unemployment could hit 7.5 per cent.
Asked by ITV News if there could be No Deal job losses, Mrs Rudd said: ‘There are no guarantees about jobs, in or out, under any economic circumstances.
‘A No Deal Brexit is definitely going to be a challenge for the economy, which is why the Government is putting together so much preparation, should it come to that. And we’re very clearly focused as a Government that we want to get a deal.’
The number of EU citizens working in the UK rose by almost 100,000 over the past year – undermining claims that business and industry would be short of workers because Brexit would deter people from moving to Britain.
SHORTLY before the 2016 referendum, the Treasury issued a chilling forecast about ‘the immediate economic impact of a vote to leave the EU’. Famously characterised by Leave supporters as Project Fear, it offered two scenarios, one entitled ‘shock’, the other ‘severe shock’.
The whole thing might as well have been headed: ‘Don’t do it. Or else!’
Even the more optimistic assessment had a 3.6 per cent collapse in GDP and a 500,000 spike in unemployment. In the other, 800,000 would be thrown out of work.
Three years on, we know just how wildly inaccurate those forecasts were. Instead of the predicted ‘profound and immediate’ slump, we’ve seen an unprecedented employment boom.
Figures released yesterday show that since referendum day, more than a million extra people have found work, with pay growth hitting an 11-year high.
And although Brexit uncertainty may have contributed to weak economic figures in recent months, UK growth has consistently outstripped that of other European countries since 2016.
There is still an argument over whether the pro-Remain Treasury made an honest mistake, or was simply scaremongering.
But as Next boss Lord Wolfson reminded us yesterday, neither side came out of that referendum campaign smelling of roses.
Today, similar predictions of economic Armageddon are focused on a No Deal Brexit. Boris Johnson has said he doesn’t want this outcome, but it’s becoming an increasingly real possibility.
Although a Leave voter, Lord Wolfson was originally among the catastrophists, warning that ‘crashing out’ would bring instant disaster.
In a distinct change of tack, however, this retail big beast now says No Deal is manageable because of improved preparations under the new Tory leadership.
Let us be clear. This paper has always argued that No Deal would create huge disruption and is to be avoided if at all possible. But unless the EU resiles from its mule-headed intransigence over reopening the failed withdrawal agreement, No Deal may happen by default.
If it does happen, we are undoubtedly in for a period of chaotic uncertainty. But we will not – as some love to suggest – be crushed by it.
Yesterday’s figures prove that only a fool would bet against Britain’s ability to adapt and thrive.