Almost 90,000 EU workers entered labour market before Brexit vote


Large rise in number of foreign nationals, as overall employment levels reach record high; TUC says figures are proof national living wage works

The number of EU nationals employed in the UK grew by almost 90,000 in the three months leading up to the EU referendum, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Much of the rise is attributed to eastern Europe. The number of workers from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia reached a record 1,007,000 in the second quarter of the year – up 44,000 on the previous quarter.

Coupled with an increase of 58,000 among UK nationals, it meant employment reached its highest level in 45 years. There were 31.75 million people in work in the second quarter of the year, 172,000 more than for January to March 2016 and 606,000 more than a year earlier. This means the proportion of people in work is now 74.5 per cent, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 4.9 per cent.

Ian Brinkley, acting CIPD chief economist, said: “With employment growing, unemployment falling and stable wage growth, this is another set of positive figures. While our recent Labour Market Outlook survey of employer intentions clearly signals tougher times ahead, any downturn in the labour market associated with Brexit is likely to be relatively mild and temporary.”

Mariano Mamertino, economist at Indeed, added: “This latest ONS data paints a reassuring picture of the jobs market in the final months before the referendum, with unemployment edging down and the number of people in work rising.”

Despite fears among recruiters, ONS data also suggests the jobs market was not immediately affected by the vote. The number of people claiming jobless benefits fell by 8,600 to 763,600 in July, compared with an anticipated rise of 9,500.

Meanwhile, the TUC said the employment figures proved employers could afford to pay the new national living wage (NLW), and that it should be extended.

“Employers will always protest that the minimum wage is unaffordable. We need to look beyond the rhetoric, and focus on the evidence,” said general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“This is a golden opportunity to raise living standards for nearly two million low-paid workers.”

O’Grady called for the NLW to be extended to those between the ages of 21 and 25. Currently, it only applies to those over 25.

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