The Government has been cautioned against ‘popping out the champagne’ over a rise in employment levels and drop in the number of people out of work.
Unite warned that a ‘welcome’ fall in unemployment masked a ‘continued rise in self-employment and low paid, insecure, part-time work’.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that there were 505,000 more people in work between August to October 2015, compared to the same period in the previous year.
The data shows there were 1.71 million unemployed (people not in work but seeking and available to work) between August to October 2015 , 244,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
The UK unemployment rate now stands at just 5.2%, the lowest level since the 3 months to January 2006.
However, whilst there were 338,000 more people in full-time employment there were also 8.42 million people working part-time – up 167,000 on the same period in the previous year.
Wage growth also appears to be sluggish, rising by just by 2.0% (excluding bonuses), compared to August to October 2014.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Any fall in unemployment is welcome, but now is not the time for ministers to popping the champagne corks.
“The continued rise of insecure self-employment and part-time work, coupled with the slowing down in an already painful and slow recovery in wages, means that too many in the workforce will be struggling to get by this Christmas.
“We are seeing a re-balancing of the economy away from decent secure jobs to a world where people are increasingly being employed in low paid, insecure work, desperate for the security of a permanent job.
“Ministers need to put the bubbly on ice. With foodbanks bracing themselves for their heaviest demand ever this winter, David Cameron and George Osborne need to recognise that not all is well in the economy.”
Owen Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said cuts to Universal Credit next year could damage wage growth and lead to 2.6 million working families being worse off.
“These figures show pay continues to bump along the bottom so it’s especially concerning the government has also confirmed today even more working families will be hit by their cuts next April”, he said.
“It appears that now Universal Credit has become a vehicle for cuts, the Tories are rolling it out quicker than ever. Iain Duncan Smith has allowed £6bn a year worth of cuts to be made to Universal Credit, and the Tory Treasury is clearly in a hurry to introduce those cuts.
“That means 2.6 million working families will be worse off by an average of £1,600 a year come 2020. In the meantime, a perverse postcode lottery will have been created where you lose hundreds if you’re on tax credits, or thousands if you’re on Universal Credit.
He added: “With pay having crashed over the last five years and with it continuing to slow in these figures, working families have suffered enough under the Tories. Cutting in-work support even further is the very last thing the government should be doing.
“That’s why Labour is calling on the government to fully reverse these cuts before they begin to bite next April.”
However, Employment Minister Priti Patel defended the Government’s record, claiming that more families will be able to enjoy Christmas in financial security.
“We are ending the year on a high, with a record rate of employment, and wages continuing to grow.
“Today’s figures show half-a-million more people in work compared to this time last year, which means hundreds of thousands of families are going into the festive season with the security and hope for the future that work brings.
“Next year we will build on this positive story with the introduction of the National Living Wage and the new offer of 30 hours free childcare for working families.
“In this way we are delivering the high-wage, low-welfare society with opportunity and security at its heart that we know the British people want.”
Main points from the ONS:
- There were 31.30 million people in work, 207,000 more than for May to July 2015 and 505,000 more than for a year earlier.
- There were 22.88 million people working full-time, 338,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.42 million people working part-time, 167,000 more than for a year earlier.
- The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 73.9%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.
- There were 1.71 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 110,000 fewer than for May to July 2015 and 244,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
- There were 939,000 unemployed men, 153,000 fewer than for a year earlier. There were 774,000 unemployed women, 91,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
- The unemployment rate was 5.2%, lower than for a year earlier (6.0%). It has not been lower since the 3 months to January 2006.
- There were 8.93 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (not working and not seeking or available to work), 63,000 fewer than for May to July 2015 and 126,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
- The inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive) was 21.9%, lower than for a year earlier (22.3%).
- Comparing August to October 2015 with a year earlier, pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.4% including bonuses and by 2.0% excluding bonuses.