The newspapers love to sensationalise otherwise dry stories like job market statistics by implying doom, disaster, and an impending implosion.
It’s unsurprising that they do this: They need to sell papers, after all. It can result in a warped perception of reality, though.
For instance, how many papers led with the headline — direct from the Office for National Statistic’s official summary — that UK unemployment has now dropped ‘to its equal lowest in over four decades’?
The unemployment rate is now just 4.7 percent
That’s right: The UK’s unemployment rate fell from an already near-record low of 4.8 percent to just 4.7 percent in the three months to January. That means more than 300,000 more people in work now than were working at this point last year.
Here’s the official chart from the ONS — focus on that steady downward orange line. The unemployment rate has been steadily falling since the beginning of the decade.
There are still plenty of vacancies, too
A statistic almost as important as the unemployment rate, but not as frequently reported on, is the number of open job vacancies. In other words, are companies hiring?
Here, the outlook looks positive, too. Kallum Pickering, an economist at Berenberg — an investment bank — notes that the relatively high vacancy rate at UK companies right now suggest that there is room for unemployment to fall still further.
Yes, the growth in the number of new vacancies has slowed a little in recent months, something economists put down to Brexit uncertainty. But, it’s very notable that, unlike during the recession following the financial crisis when the number of vacancies fell through the floor, there are still more new jobs being advertised than at this point last year.
So, wage growth next?
Lots of available jobs and a smaller pool of people to fill them means it’s a job seekers market. While wages haven’t risen as fast as some people expected over recent years, many are now predicting that the current conditions are ripe for higher pay.
It all depends on whether firms in the UK still feel confident enough about the future to keep investing and to keep hiring. Here, the picture Is, of course, mixed — it isn’t clear at the moment how good a deal the Government can negotiate as we exit the European Union.
That said, others feel quite confident. Take Robert Walters, CEO, who is bullish about the future:
‘You’ve got reducing corporation tax, you’ve got a well-educated workforce, you’ve got benign employment law, a devalued currency — why wouldn’t you be based in the UK?’.
The future is… complicated
While we can safely dismiss the sensationalist doom-mongers, it would be wrong to assume that we can all sit back, sip on a piña colada, and watch the jobs roll in over the next few years.
It’s putting it mildly to say that there’s rather a lot going on in the world right now that might impact company’s ability or willingness to hire more people. From Brexit to Donald Trump, to Russian unpredictability and violence in the Middle East there are a lot of unknowns in the world right now that could suddenly, and quite drastically, change things.
The bottom line for job seekers? Now’s a good time to get moving before The Donald, or whoever else, acts next.
Jordan is the Director of Executive Partnerships, a London-based recruitment agency that specialises in PA, EA, and business support professionals. Learn more at executivepartnerships.co.uk