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Mixed signals on labour market continue

Growth in regular pay, which excludes bonuses, has slowed again, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but at 6.1% the rate is still outpacing inflation by 2%

Job vacancies from December to February 2024 were down by 224,000 from the previous year but they remained 107,000 above pre-COVID levels.

The statistics also showed that more than a fifth of adults in the UK were not actively looking for work between November and January.

Jane Gratton, Deputy Director Public Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:  “With wages continuing to outpace inflation, alongside high levels of economic inactivity – including long-term sickness, the picture for businesses trying to recruit remains challenging.

“Yet at the same time, the number of vacancies continues to fall and rates of employment and unemployment remain stable.

“Overall, the labour market is still much tighter than it was before the pandemic, and the long-term structural issues it faces have yet to be addressed.

“While the Government took positive steps to ease problems with childcare access in the Budget last week, there is still more to do to get people back into work. This includes removing barriers to work and ensuring job seekers are well prepared to succeed in the workplace.

“Business also has a role to play in tackling shortages. By ensuring fair and flexible workplaces, alongside training and upskilling, employers can make their jobs more accessible to a broader talent pool. This would also help slow the loss of people from the workforce for health and other reasons.

“The BCC’s own research indicates the labour market remains tight for many. Unless we get more people back into the workplace then the risk of higher inflation and interest rates will persist.”

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