Brexit Uncertainty Shows No Sign of Impacting Jobs Market

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal that during September to November 2018 there were an estimated 32.53 million people in work, 141,000 more than for the preceding quarter and 328,000 more than for a year earlier. The proportion of working age people in employment was estimated at 75.8%, higher than for a year earlier (75.3%) and the highest since comparable estimates began in 1971.

There were an estimated 1.37 million unemployed people (available to work and seeking employment) during September to November 2018, a similar figure to the preceding quarter but 68,000 fewer than for a year earlier. This puts the unemployment at an estimated 4.0%, the lowest since December 1974 to February 1975.

The figures also revealed that the latest estimates indicate that average weekly earnings for UK workers in “real terms” (meaning adjusted for price inflation) increased by 1.1% excluding bonuses, and by 1.2% including bonuses, compared with the same period a year earlier.

These figures suggest that Brexit uncertainty has not impacted the employment landscape, however, analysis from the BBC suggests that it is too early to speculate about the impact of Brexit on the labour market. Jobs figures follow the rest of the economy, so firms hiring in September to November would have made hiring decisions over the summer when confidence was higher and there was less political wrangling. Similarly, the rise in wages is not expected to continue its upward trajectory with Samuel Tombs (chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics) quoted as saying “We doubt that wage growth will be sustained over the next six months at November’s strong rate.”

This lack of optimism in growth is echoed by PWC’s annual global CEO survey which revealed that almost 30% of CEOs projecting a decline in global economic growth, with concerns associated to the ease of doing business in their markets, specific worries relate to overregulation, policy uncertainty, availability of key skills and trade conflicts. CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills which allow organisations to translate a big data into better decision making and implementation of AI. It seems that despite heavy investment over the past decade there remains a gulf between the information CEOs need and what they receive. This year’s World Economic Forum began yesterday and it will be interesting to see what key issues and forecasts are expressed in Davos.