18 February 2016, 00:00

Unemployment falls for over 50s

After falling for five consecutive readings, the UK-wide unemployment rate (for persons aged 16 and over) held steady at 5.1% between October – December 2015. In contrast, the unemployment rate for those aged 50-64 fell once again, down 0.1 percentage points to 3.4%.

• Figure 1 illustrates that the contribution of the over 50s to the job market has been rising steadily. Over the past five years, the total number of people in employment in the UK has grown by 7.1%, with employment for the over 50s rising faster than for younger workers.

Over this time, the number of workers aged:
o 65 or older has risen from 880,000 in the three months to December 2010 to 1.20 million over October – December 2015, a very pronounced rise of 36.5% or 321,000 employees.
o 50-64 has risen from 7.36 million in the three months to December 2010 to 8.39 million over September – November 2015, an increase of 14.0% or just over 1 million employees.
o 16-49 has increased by 3.5% or 739,000 employees, from 21.09 million to 21.83 million.

• The number of workers who are 50 or older has been rising steadily. Five years ago, some 8.24 million UK workers were 50 or older in the three months to December 2010. That figure had risen to 9.59 million over the three months to December 2015.

• Figure 2 illustrates that the over 50s’ share of UK employment is continuing to rise. Over the three months to December 2015, we calculate that:
o 69.5% of all employed people were 49 or younger, down from 70.0% one year previously.
o 26.7% of all employed people were in the 50-64 age bracket, up from 26.3% one year earlier.
o 3.8% of all employed people were 65 or older, up from 3.6% 12 months before.

• However, there are clear regional differences across the UK in the employment prospects for those that are aged 50 and above.

• Figure 3 illustrates the regional employment growth for workers who are 50 or older.
o The growth in employment of those aged 50 or older outpaced the overall growth across most of the regions over the last 12 months.
o Wales and the North East led this rise in over 50s employment with annual increases of 10.3% (+44,000) and 9.7% (+36,000) respectively.
o However, over 50s employment has fallen on a year-on-year basis in the South East.

• There are also differences in long-term unemployment across the regions of the UK. Figure 4 shows that the percentage of those claiming jobseekers allowance for over 12 months and therefore classed as long-term unemployed is higher for the over 50s age group compared with the working population as a whole in every region of the UK.
o The share of unemployed people aged over 50 that were classed as long-term unemployed was highest in Northern Ireland and the West Midlands at 51% and 45% respectively.
o This compares with 38% and 36% of all unemployed workers in Northern Ireland and the West Midlands classed as long-term unemployed.

• Worryingly, Figure 4 shows that, across the UK, the over 50s who find themselves out of work are finding it harder to get back into employment compared with the rest of the working population.




Press Office