Unemployment fell to 1.53m in the quarter to April, the lowest since records began in 1975, according to official figures.
The figures, released this morning, reveals unemployment over the period fell by 50,000 with the rate remaining at 4.6%, while the employment rate reached a new high of 74.8% – also at record levels.
Commenting on the figures, Recruitment & Employment Confederation CEO Kevin Green described a jobs market that continues to perform above expectations: “There are 372,000 more people in work compared to a year ago, and the proportion of the population participating in the labour market is at a record high.
“This is good news, but there are pressing challenges for employers. Our data shows that employers are struggling to fill jobs because of labour, skill and talent shortages.
“Clearly, employers will be thinking about contingency plans if they can’t find the people they need in the UK. The government’s role should be to help businesses by building a balanced immigration system. We also want to see a rethink on the Apprenticeship Levy so that it goes beyond training people at the start of their careers and enables life-long learning.”
Meanwhile Neil Carberry, business body the CBI’s director of employment and skills, said decent employment growth remains an encouraging feature of the UK economy, underlining the importance of maintaining a flexible and fair labour market, but added: “Weak pay growth, against the backdrop of rising inflation, means that people’s pay packets won’t stretch as far, which is already hitting living standards.
“Therefore politicians need to put the economy front and centre, create stability and ensure the EU negotiations get off to a positive start. In the longer term, we must fix the foundations of our economy by improving productivity growth through meaningful progress on a modern industrial strategy, with real change on the ground in skills, infrastructure and innovation.”
Meanwhile careers board Jobsite CEO Nick Gold said it was no surprise to see unemployment numbers continue to fall, with vacancy numbers thriving in the second quarter of 2017.
“Despite jobseekers having more choice, we’re still seeing job application numbers continue to increase at a significant rate. This is great news for recruiters because it means there is a larger pool of talent to choose from and ultimately this creates a sustainable environment for business growth.”
Meanwhile Mariano Mamertino, EMEA economist at global job site Indeed, said each successive fall in unemployment is looking like an “ever more hollow” victory.
“For several months – and throughout the election campaign – the greatest concern over the labour market has shifted from those who are out of work to those who are in work, and how their living standards are being steadily squeezed.
“Nevertheless there is hope. The rate of job creation continues to impress and inactivity rates are falling. With employment rates at their highest level since records began, employers in many sectors are competing hard to secure the best talent.”
But John Salt, director at Totaljobs, described this latest fall in unemployment as testament to the robustness of the job market: “This is the latest triumph for the UK job market, which has proved its metal in the face of great change these past 12 months. Brexit, a change in prime minister and a snap election have done little to halt consistently positive numbers for UK unemployment.
“As we watch to see how the newly formed government will fare in the Brexit negotiations, continued flexibility is important for candidates and employers alike as we all get used to our new circumstances. In the next 12 months, employment policies that encourage businesses to keep on hiring will be more important than ever in sustaining our falling unemployment rate.”