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Extraordinarily low unemployment means labour shortages of very real concern

The UK’s unemployment rate has decreased slightly over the past three months, hitting 3.6 per cent.

The rate for May to July 2022 has dipped 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period, according to the Office for National Statistics’ freshly published data.

Unemployment was also 0.4 percentage points below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

This was the lowest rate since May to July 1974, it was announced on Tuesday.

Statisticians estimated the country’s employment rate at around 75.4 per cent, 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period.

Commenting on this morning’s release of labour market statistics, Kitty Ussher, Chief Economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “Just when we thought unemployment couldn’t get any lower, it has fallen further to an extraordinary 3.6% in the 3 months to July, the lowest rate since 1974.

“This is good news for households trying to budget in the face of rising costs. Although the effect of inflation has caused real pay to fall – by 2.8% on the year, causing difficulties for many – the jolt to family budgets from high unemployment would be significantly worse.

“More disturbing is the continuing rise in economic inactivity. Some of this is due to having more students, but also to increasing numbers of over-50s being denied the ability to work due to long-term illness.

“For businesses, low unemployment means labour shortages remain a very real concern. Having said that, today’s data also suggests some firms are pausing recruitment plans in the face of a weakening economy: the number of vacancies, although still very high, has started to come down.”

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