Unemployment falls to 40-YEAR low as number of EU nationals working in the UK sees a record drop

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Unemployment has fallen to a 40-year low as the number of EU nationals working in the UK drops.

The jobless total fell by 65,000 in the latest quarter to 1.36million, which was the lowest figure since 1976.

Meanwhile, there were 2.28million EU citizens working in the UK in the quarter to June – 86,000 fewer than a year earlier and the largest annual decrease since records began in 1997.

The number of people in work continued to increase – up by 42,000 to 32.39 million, although the rate remained at 75 per cent, said the Office for National Statistics.

The figures also show that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals working in the UK has hit a record high – in sharp contrast to workers from other eastern European countries. 

The jobless total fell by 65,000 in the latest quarter to 1.36 million to the lowest figure since 1976. The graph shows the unemployment rate is now just 4 per cent

The jobless total fell by 65,000 in the latest quarter to 1.36 million to the lowest figure since 1976. The graph shows the unemployment rate is now just 4 per cent

The jobless total fell by 65,000 in the latest quarter to 1.36 million to the lowest figure since 1976. The graph shows the unemployment rate is now just 4 per cent

Job vacancies increased by 20,000 to a record high of 829,000, while average earnings increased by 2.4 per cent in the year to June, down from 2.5 per cent the previous month.

Number of Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK climbs  

The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK has risen to a record high, in contrast to a sharp drop in employees from other eastern European countries.

Official statistics show there were 391,000 Romanian and Bulgarian workers from April to June this year, an increase of 54,000 compared to the same period of 2017.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, and restrictions on migrants from the two countries working in Britain were lifted in January 2014.

The increase is at odds with the general trend which has seen eastern European migration fall. 

Between April and June, there were 880,000 nationals from the so-called EU A8 nations – Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This was down by 117,000 from 997,000 a year earlier.

The number of nationals of 14 long-term EU member states including Germany, Italy, Spain and France working in the UK also fell year-on-year, decreasing by around 23,000 to just below one million.

Overall, there were 2.28 million EU nationals working in the UK in the latest three-month period – 86,000 fewer than 12 months earlier and the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said: ‘Despite very low unemployment and high vacancy levels, the number of EU nationals working in the UK, especially from A8 countries, continues to fall – offset in part by rises in non-EU nationals and those from Bulgaria and Romania.

‘This reflects Brexit uncertainty along with other factors such as the buoyant Polish economy.’ 

The number of workers on zero-hours contracts fell by 104,000 over the past year to 780,000, the first substantial fall since the ONS started tracking the figures in 2000.

The percentage of workers employed on a zero-hours contract is now 2.4 per cent, down from 2.8 per cent a year ago.

Senior ONS statistician Matt Hughes said: ‘The number of people in work has continued to edge ahead, though the employment rate was unchanged on the quarter.

‘The growth in employment is still being driven by UK nationals, with a noticeable drop over the past ym the so-called A8 eastern European countries in particular.’

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work, increased by 77,000 to 8.7 million in the latest quarter, giving a rate of 21.2 per cent. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: ‘With the unemployment rate falling further to just 4 per cent, and youth unemployment down over 45 per cent since 2010, school leavers this week can look forward to a growing jobs market, improving the prospects for their future careers.

‘In fact the UK’s vibrant jobs market is benefiting people across the board. Record rates of ethnic minority people in work also show that more families across our society are benefiting from the security of a job, with wages also on the increase.

‘We have some of the most creative, innovative and hard-working young people in the world and this summer I’ve been urging them to take on a summer job, gaining ‘soft skills – or as I call them, essential skills – for their future careers.’ 

Meanwhile, the numbers show that the number of Romanians and  Bulgarians moving to the UK for work has continued to climb.

Official statistics show there were 391,000 Romanian and Bulgarian workers from April to June this year, an increase of 54,000 compared to the same period of 2017.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, and restrictions on migrants from the two countries working in Britain were lifted in January 2014.

The increase is at odds with the trend in employment levels for nationals from other EU member states.

The number of people working in the UK from eight other eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 registered the largest annual fall since comparable records began.

Between April and June, there were 880,000 nationals from the so-called EU A8 nations – Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This was down by 117,000 from 997,000 a year earlier.

The number of nationals of 14 long-term EU member states including Germany, Italy, Spain and France working in the UK also fell year-on-year, decreasing by around 23,000 to just below one million.

Overall, there were 2.28 million EU nationals working in the UK in the latest three-month period – 86,000 fewer than 12 months earlier and the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said: ‘Despite very low unemployment and high vacancy levels, the number of EU nationals working in the UK, especially from A8 countries, continues to fall – offset in part by rises in non-EU nationals and those from Bulgaria and Romania.

There were 2.28million EU citizens working in the UK in the quarter to June – 86,000 fewer than a year earlier and the largest annual decrease since records began in 1997

‘This reflects Brexit uncertainty along with other factors such as the buoyant Polish economy.’

Data on employment levels by nationality have come under sharp focus since the EU referendum in June 2016.

Separate net migration figures have sparked claims of a ‘Brexodus’, but statisticians stressed that the estimates published on Tuesday do not measure flows of recent migrants to the UK.

Government officials are working to draw up post-Brexit arrangements which incorporate an end to free movement rules while ensuring that any fall in overseas labour does not damage the economy.

Analysis published last year showed EU migrants account for as many as one in 10 employees in some sectors.

Meanwhile, the new figures show a rise in the number of workers from the rest of the world.

There were 1.27 million non-EU nationals working in the UK in April to June, 74,000 more than a year earlier.   

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