Kent and Medway unemployment figures for May: Jobless figures drop but wage growth fuels fears for tackling inflation

The latest unemployment figures for Kent and Medway reveal a decline in every part of the county – but rising wages are fuelling fears of inflation remaining high.

The Office for National Statistics published its confirmed figures for May which revealed the jobless total across the county fell, in total, by 1,155. It follows April which had seen a rise in many districts.

Unemployment figures for Kent and Medway dropped in May
Unemployment figures for Kent and Medway dropped in May

Countywide, the percentage of working age people out of work stood at 3.3% – well below the national average.

The biggest drop was in Thanet which saw 195 people back in work. It is traditionally the district with the highest percentage of unemployed. The May figures saw that drop from 5.8% in April to 5.5% in May.

The next highest is Gravesham on 4.3%, following by Folkestone & Hythe and Dover (both on 3.8%).

As before, the lowest rates of unemployment are in the west of the county – with Tunbridge Wells remaining steady at 2.3%, Tonbridge & Malling at 2.1% and Sevenoaks leading the way with just 2% out of work.

Nationally, the ONS figures revealed the UK jobless rate jumped to 4% in the three months to May.

However, what will be concerning the Bank of England – which controls interest rates - the most will be soaring wages

The ONS figures revealed average pay for the three months, not including bonuses, was 7.3% higher compared to the same period last year.

If wages keep growing, people’s spending will continue despite the soaring costs of products due to stubbornly high inflation.

That, in turn, will keep inflation high. It currently stands at 8.7%. The Bank of England is tasked with maintaining it at 2% – seen as a figure which underlines steady growth.

Should inflation remain high, the Bank’s only course of action to put the squeeze on spending is to further increase interest rates – which will be bad news for mortgage holders who have already seen monthly costs rocket over the last year.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says he continues to work towards a ‘high growth, low inflation economy’
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says he continues to work towards a ‘high growth, low inflation economy’

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “Total employment grew in the latest three months while the number of people actively looking for work also increased, both driven by men rejoining the labour market.

“Pay excluding bonuses has again risen at record levels in cash terms.

“Due to high inflation, however, the real value of weekly earnings are still falling, although now at its slowest rate since the end of 2021.”

The new data also showed that job vacancies fell by 85,000 to 1,034,000 in April to June, against the previous quarter. It was the 12th consecutive drop as hiring by firms comes under continued pressure.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “Our jobs market is strong with unemployment low by historical standards. But we still have around one million job vacancies, pushing up inflation even further. Our labour market reforms - including expanding free childcare next year - will help to build the high wage, high growth, low inflation economy we all want to see.”

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