UK employment reached record high level before virus struck
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.”