REC response to ONS labour market statistics, May 2019

Filed under Press release

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Today’s labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% in January to March 2019 – it has not been lower since October to December 1974. There were an estimated 1.30 million unemployed people, 119,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than for a year earlier (75.6%) and the joint-highest figure on record. 32.70 million people were in employment, 354,000 more than for a year earlier.

The number of vacancies was estimated at 846,000 for February to April 2019, 28,000 more than a year earlier but 15,000 fewer than for November 2018 to January 2019.

Commenting on the figures, Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) director of policy and campaigns Tom Hadley said:

“Today’s figures continue to show a thriving jobs market, with employment still at a record high and unemployment continuing to fall. The major challenge for employers is finding the right candidates, which is why recruitment professionals continue to work flat out to fill roles across all sectors of the economy.

“However, there are signs that employers are starting to be more cautious, as both these official statistics and Report on Jobs data show that vacancy numbers are starting to drop. This will need to be monitored but is also important to note that with 80 per cent of employers working at close to full capacity, according to REC data, any upturn in business confidence would lead to a further surge in demand for staff. 

“Whilst today’s data is once again positive, we must focus on quality and well as quantity of work and boost progression opportunities for all. The UK’s £35.7 billion recruitment sector is committed to playing its role in creating a genuine ‘progression nation’, where all workers have an equal opportunity to develop skills and find good work.”


Notes to Editors:  

  1. Full ONS labour market overview for May 2019 can be found here.
  2. The KPMG and REC Report on Jobs is a survey of 400 recruitment and employment consultancies about the labour market, compiled every month by IHS Markit. More information can be found here.
  3. The latest JobsOutlook, a survey of 600 UK employers produced by the REC in partnership with ComRes, found that four in five employers (80 per cent) had either no surplus workforce capacity, or such a small amount that they may need to hire more staff if demand increased.

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The REC is all about brilliant recruitment, which drives our economy and delivers opportunity to millions. As the voice of the recruitment industry, we champion high standards, speak up for great recruiters, and help them grow. Recruitment is a powerful tool for companies and candidates to build better futures for themselves and a strong economy for the UK. Find out more about the Recruitment & Employment Confederation at 

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