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Key figures

  • The UK unemployment rate was 4.2% in January-March 2018, its lowest level since 1975. The ILO measure of unemployment was 1.42 million people, 46,000 fewer than the previous quarter and 116,000 fewer than the year before.
  • The number of people in employment was 32.34 million, up 197,000 from the previous quarter and 396,000 more than the year before. The employment rate was 75.6%, the highest rate since comparable records began in 1971.
  • 8.66 million people aged 16-64 were economically inactive, down 115,000 from the previous quarter and 171,000 fewer than a year ago. The inactivity rate was 21.0%, the lowest rate since comparable records began in 1971.
  • Average weekly pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.9% excluding bonuses in the three months to March 2018 compared with the previous year. Average weekly pay including bonuses increased by 2.6%.
  • CPI inflation averaged 2.7% over this period, meaning that average earnings excluding bonuses grew slightly faster than prices.

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. So changes in claimant numbers may be a consequence of the Universal Credit rollout rather than changes in economic conditions.

The effect is most visible in areas operating Universal Credit “Full Service”, where rollout of Universal Credit is more advanced: in these areas, there tends to have been a sharp increase in the claimant count over the past year.

Previously the data table in section 3 of this paper ranked constituencies according to their claimant rate. However, ranks for all constituencies are affected by Universal Credit rollout. There have been marked increases in rank for constituencies where rollout is more advanced, but that means other constituencies (in early stages of rollout) are pushed down the rankings. This makes the constituency ranks less informative and we have omitted them from this month’s edition.

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