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UK workforce sees biggest fall in two years

Man and woman talking in a factoryImage copyright Getty Images

The number of people in work in the UK has seen its biggest fall in the past two years, but unemployment also fell.

There were 32 million workers in the three months to September, down 14,000 from the last quarter, Office for National Statistics data shows.

At the same time, the number of jobless – those people not in work but seeking a job – fell 59,000 to 1.42 million.

Workers’ earnings, including bonuses, rose 2.2% compared with a year ago, which still lags inflation of 3%.

Matt Hughes, a senior ONS statistician, said employment had declined after two years of “almost uninterrupted growth”.

The last time there was a bigger fall in employment was in April to June 2015, when the number of people in work dropped by 45,000, according to the ONS.

Mr Hughes said: “But there was a rise in the number of people who were neither working nor looking for a job – so-called economically inactive people.”

There were 8.88 million people aged 16 to 64 who were “economically inactive” – not working and not seeking or available to work.

Wage squeeze

People are classed as unemployed if they have been looking for work within the last four weeks – and are able to start work within the next two weeks.

The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.3%, and down from 4.8% a year earlier.

With inflation at a five-and-a-half-year high of 3% in October, pay is failing to keep up with higher prices.

Average earnings increased by 2.2% in the year to September, down by 0.1% on the previous month and by 0.3% on a year ago.

Average weekly earnings in real terms, adjusted for inflation, fell by 0.4% compared with a year ago, according to ONS data.

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