ONS data reveals concerning fall in self-employed, warns labour market expert


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Matthew Lesh comments for the Daily Express

Commenting on the latest labour market figures, published today by the Office for National Statistics, Professor Len Shackleton, Editorial and Research Fellow at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“Today’s labour market data continue to offer a broadly positive picture, although the inevitable lags in collection mean that the impact of December’s Plan B restrictions is not yet clear.

“Payroll data suggest employment above pre-pandemic levels and continuing high levels of vacancies. Unemployment rates have fallen again right across the UK, with record lows in some regions, such as the East of England and East Midlands.

“There are some worries. Pay is barely keeping pace with inflation, so the big increase in energy bills from April is likely to hit many working households badly.

“While recent figures suggest GDP is now above its early 2020 level, productivity (which ultimately determines sustainable pay) is unlikely to be growing rapidly. There has been significant expansion in employment in sectors such as public administration, where the productivity record is poor. The disproportionate increase in part-time employment, where productivity is lower, may also have an impact.

“Another concerning aspect is that the numbers of self-employed continue to fall. While income levels and productivity are low for most self-employed people, this type of work is highly valued by some groups in the population, and can often act as a stimulant to later expansion of small businesses.

“The pandemic restrictions have been very damaging to the self-employed, and it is to be hoped that removing these restrictions will allow for some recovery later in the year.”

ENDSNotes to editorsContact: Emily Carver, Head of Media, 07715 942 731IEA spokespeople are available for interview and further comment.

Further IEA reading:‘How to create new jobs’, by Professor Len Shackleton


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