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Key figures

  • The UK unemployment rate was 4.2% in December 2017-February 2018. This is the lowest rate since 1975.
  • The ILO measure of unemployment was 1.42 million people, 16,000 fewer than the previous quarter and 136,000 fewer than the year before.
  • The number of people in employment was 32.26 million, up 55,000 from the previous quarter and 427,000 more than the year before.
  • The employment rate was 75.4%, the highest rate since comparable records began in 1971.
  • 8.73 million people aged 16-64 were economically inactive, about the same as the previous quarter but 154,000 fewer than a year ago.
  • The inactivity rate was 21.2%, the joint lowest rate since comparable records began in 1971.
  • Average weekly pay for employees in Great Britain, both including and excluding bonuses, increased by 2.8% in the three months to February 2018 compared with the previous year.
  • CPI inflation averaged 2.9% over this period, meaning that prices were growing slightly faster than average earnings. (If we adjust for CPIH inflation, as preferred by the Office for National Statistics, then average earnings grew slightly faster than prices.) The pace of average earnings growth has gradually been increasing since Spring 2017.

Universal Credit and the claimant count

The claimant count figures provided in this paper are affected by the ongoing rollout of Universal Credit. The claimant count comprises people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, or people claiming Universal Credit who are required to seek work. Under Universal Credit, a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than under Jobseeker’s Allowance. This has the effect of increasing the number of unemployed claimants. The effect is most visible in areas operating Universal Credit “Full Service” (where rollout of Universal Credit is more advanced).

Therefore, changes in claimant numbers or constituency rankings may be a consequence of the Universal Credit rollout rather than changes in economic conditions. In areas operating Full Service, there has been a sharp increase in the claimant count over the past year. However in constituencies not operating Full Service, their constituency ranking (based on their claimant rate) may still be affected – as Full Service areas move up the rankings, other areas must necessarily move down the rankings.

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