Despite the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, the good news is that our economy continues to go from strength to strength. Employment is at its highest rate since records began with almost half a million more people in work since December last year. The UK now has a higher employment rate than America, Canada, France and Italy.
What’s even more positive about these figures is that over the past year, 90% of the increase has come from full-time employment and 97% of those jobs are highly skilled.
Of course, not everyone is in the same boat and working full time isn’t always what people want. Some have been critical of what has been dubbed ‘insecure work’ and there are examples where there is a legitimate cause for concern, but so often this is not the case. On a recent visit to McDonald's at Chichester Gate, I met with staff who are all offered either guaranteed minimum hours or flexible working contracts. More than 90% of the staff choose flexible working to allow them to balance their commitments like childcare or studying. The franchise owner Grant started as a student thirty years ago and has worked his way up the organisation. I also met a number of staff who were being trained for the next level of responsibility and the wonderful, long-serving Guest Experience Manager, Carol, who makes sure customers are happy.
Nationally unemployment is now at an incredible low of 3.9%, the lowest level since the 70s, and it is even lower in the Chichester area. As of March this year, we have less than 1000 people of working age who are unemployed.
As unemployment is low in our area businesses often struggle to get the people they need. This is a particular concern for farmers and growers who will soon be harvesting and will need more manpower. This will be a challenge now we’re leaving the EU and we are keen to see the results of the Seasonal Agricultural Work pilot scheme that launched at the beginning of this month.
Despite this and other concerns with Brexit currently at a standstill, the UK economy is doing well. We are currently enjoying the longest unbroken quarterly growth streak of any G7 nation, wages are growing at their fastest pace in over a decade and the UK just kicked the USA off the top spot for the first time as the most attractive place to do business in the world. Imagine the possibilities once we have delivered Brexit!