Unemployment rate lowest since 1974

Today’s fresh Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics shows that the UK’s unemployment rate is the lowest since 1974, 47 years ago, alongside demonstrating how wage growth is being outstripped by inflation.

The rate fell to 3.7 per cent in the three months leading to March 2022 – the lowest since October to December 1974, the ONS said this morning.

There were less unemployed people than job vacancies during this period, but the fall from 3.8 per cent in the three months to February, was down to an uptick of people leaving the jobs market.

Catherine Foot, Director of longevity think tank Phoenix Insights, said: “Despite decreasing unemployment across the board, we’re still seeing more older people leaving the labour market. While that may be a positive choice for some, we fear that for many it’s down to a lack of better options. Against today’s backdrop of record high job vacancies, it’s clear that urgent action is needed to keep and attract back older workers.


“After all, we’re living longer lives than ever but, for most of us, securing and staying in good work is essential for those lives to be fulfilling. But we recently found that one-in-four people are not confident in their ability to secure work and are worried that ill health, discrimination or the wrong skills will stop them from earning and saving what they need for later life. In fact, we found 70% of people believe the government needs to do more to help people build on their skills throughout their career, while employers must also do their bit by tackling age-bias in recruitment and enabling flexible working.”

Commenting on the news, Professor Len Shackleton, labour market expert and editorial and research fellow at free market think the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The UK labour market news continues to be a mixed bag. The number of payroll employees has risen again, but lagged data from January-March suggest that public sector employment has been rising faster than private sector jobs, with the number of self-employed slumping again.

“More young people are moving back into economic activity, and job vacancies now exceed unemployment for the first time since we started counting in the current manner. However, the exit of older workers has not been reversed, and total employment and hours worked are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The pay picture shows a diversity of experience. Although real pay in January-March rose slightly, this was driven by bonuses, which most of those in work do not receive.

“While it is good to see that most people can find some sort of work at the moment, today’s data may be the calm before the storm. They predate the tax hits which came in April, the energy price hikes and the effects of the Ukraine crisis, all of which are going massively to affect household living standards, drive changing labour market reactions and may lead to disruptive strikes. We are likely to be in for a much bumpier ride.”