UK em­ploy­ment reached record high level be­fore virus struck

The Guardian - - Financial - Richard Part­ing­ton Eco­nomics cor­re­spon­dent

Em­ploy­ment in Bri­tain hit a record high in Jan­uary be­fore the coro­n­avirus struck, fig­ures showed yes­ter­day as the coun­try braces for a wave of job losses amid a global re­ces­sion.

The Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics said the num­ber of peo­ple in work in­creased by 184,000 in the three months to Jan­uary to reach a record 33 mil­lion, re­flect­ing the strength of the jobs mar­ket be­fore the spread of the dis­ease. The em­ploy­ment rate rose to 76.5%, a joint record high.

Un­em­ploy­ment rose slightly from 3.8% in De­cem­ber to 3.9% in the three months to Jan­uary, al­though it was still among the low­est lev­els since the mid-1970s. An­nual wage growth rose to 3.1% in the three months to Jan­uary, up from 2.9% in De­cem­ber. Ex­clud­ing bonuses, wage growth slowed mod­estly to 3.1% from 3.2%.

Economists said the snap­shot be­fore the coro­n­avirus spread to Bri­tain rep­re­sented a “last hur­rah” for the coun­try’s jobs mar­ket.

“This could be as good as it gets for quite some time,” said Sarah Coles, per­sonal fi­nance an­a­lyst at the in­vest­ment com­pany Har­g­reaves Lans­down. “The fig­ures show the econ­omy was on track at the start of 2020 – with record low un­em­ploy­ment and wages on the rise. But just a few short weeks later we’re watch­ing it come off the rails.”

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