ONS labour market statistics: planned immigration restrictions threaten economic growth and public services

Filed under Press release

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Today’s labour market statistics raise big questions over the government’s plans to end ‘low-skilled’ migration to the UK, announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday.

The UK jobs market remained stable in the three months to November, according to today’s ONS figures, with the employment rate growing by 0.6% compared with the same period last year. Total employment now stands at 76.3%, while unemployment is at 3.8%, 0.2% lower than the same period last year. There were 805,000 job vacancies for October-December 2019, 11,000 fewer than the previous three months and 49,000 fewer than the same period a year earlier.  

However, the REC’s JobsOutlook survey shows businesses are worried about being able to recruit the skills they need. More than half (52%) of employers are worried about skills shortages for permanent staff – meanwhile employer confidence in the economy is at a low point.

Neil Carberry, CEO at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said:

“There are two sides to today’s labour market statistics. On one hand it’s great news that the UK labour market has remained so steady in the face of uncertainty, and the economy continues to keep record numbers of people in work. On the other however, businesses want to grow but are struggling to find the right people in such tight conditions. Employers in construction, education and social care – three sectors that are at the core of our prosperity – need workers at all skill levels.

“We need an immigration system that is controlled and works for the whole economy. The government must to be careful not to cut businesses off from the essential skills they need. It would be a big win for the government introduce a temporary immigration route to meet the needs of the economy for some workers at lower pay and skill levels. This will help businesses succeed post-Brexit and support the jobs and growth here in the UK.”



Notes to editors:


  1. The latest ONS labour market overview can be found here.
  2. The REC Report on Jobs in January shows that demand for staff increased slightly for the first time in 12 months.
  3. The REC JobsOutlook in December showed employer confidence in making hiring decisions hit its lowest point since mid-2016.
  4. REC’s recommendations to the new government can be found in full in our manifesto ‘Making Great Work Happen’ here.

For more information, contact the REC Press Office on 020 7009 2157, 020 7009 2192 or pressoffice@rec.uk.com

Click here to view all REC press releases.


The REC is the voice of the recruitment industry, speaking up for great recruiters. We drive standards and empower recruitment businesses to build better futures for their candidates and themselves. We are champions of an industry which is fundamental to the strength of the UK economy.
Find out more about the Recruitment & Employment Confederation at www.rec.uk.com

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