UK unemployment falls to record low

The percentage of households with no adults in employment has fallen to a record low of 14.5%, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Almost 3 million households housing over 4 million people had no working adult, the lowest rate since records began in 1996. The official rate of unemployment is also at a record low of 4.5%, well below the figure of 6.5% generally used by economists to indicate full employment.

While these figures may sound positive, to get a full picture the level of inactive workers should also be considered. This includes people such as students, retired people, part-time workers who would prefer to work full-time, carers and those at home due to sickness or disability.

When inactive workers are included in the figures, the level of joblessness reaches 21.5% of the full workforce, according to the ONS. This figure is around four times greater than the official unemployment figure preferred by the government.

Joblessness is also not distributed equally among the nation’s households but concentrated in around one in seven (14.5%) of homes where no-one aged 16 or over is in employment.

When the ONS began compiling its Labour Force Survey in 1996, the proportion of workless households was 21%. Since then, the proportion of households where all inhabitants are working has risen from 52% to 58%. Particular change has been seen among lone parents; two thirds (68%) of these are now in employment, the highest proportion on record.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke told the BBC that “With record levels of employment, more people across the country now have the ability to support themselves and their families. That means more children growing up with a working adult and more children who can see first-hand the benefits of being in employment.”

Labour’s shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood said: “While any increases in employment are positive, under this government work is no longer a reliable route out of poverty with over half of those living in poverty coming from a working household.”