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UK – Record number of women in work

20 February 2014

Female employment in the UK has reached its highest level since records began, as the overall number of unemployed people fell again at the end of last year, reports The Guardian. The employment rate among women reached 67.2%, the highest level since 1971, according to official data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released yesterday.

The latest rise was driven by an increase in the number of women working full time, which was up by 122,000, to 8.1 million, over the past three months. Female workers now account for 46% of the total UK workforce.

The number with part-time jobs fell, by 28,000, to 5.9 million, while in comparison the number of men in both full-time and part-time work rose.

Across the wider UK economy there were 2.3 million people out of work in the three months to December, 125,000 fewer than in the three months to September, although the pace of falling unemployment was slowing.

However, the latest data showed that the overall unemployment rate increased to 7.2% in the final three months of the year, from 7.1% in the three months to November. However, it remains lower than the 7.6% rate in the three months to September. Economists described the apparent increase as a statistical quirk relating to the way the ONS measures and compares unemployment.

A breakdown of the figures over previous months suggested there was a rise in the number of people out of work in December, but the ONS stressed that monthly figures were volatile and a three-month average was a more representative indicator.

Nick Palmer, Senior Labour Market Statistician at the ONS, explained: "The latest unemployment rate is 7.2%, down 0.4 percentage points on the previous quarter. This is a comparison between the July-September and October-December three-month periods. It is higher than last month's published figure of 7.1% for September-November.”

"However, it is not directly comparable with the figure published this month, as the labour force survey is not designed to measure monthly changes. The main conclusion that should be drawn from these latest figures is that the rate at which unemployment has been falling is likely to have slowed down," he added.

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