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Home > News > April 2004 > 19-Apr-2004

CBI hails march towards full employment but cautions on skills shortages

The CBI hailed the UK's inflation-free march towards full employment as "a remarkable success". But the employers' body cautioned that skills shortages could grow as a problem as the economic recovery gathers pace.

Reacting to official statistics showing a fall in unemployment, Douglas Godden, CBI Head of Economic Analysis, said: "We should get very close to full employment this year and that has got to be good news. So far, we have been able to do so without igniting inflation and that is without question a remarkable success. But it is clear that skills shortages could become a bigger problem as the recovery gathers pace. That suggests firms will need to be increasingly innovative in the way they operate and in the way they use labour in order to raise productivity."

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Andrew Smith, welcomed the UK labour market figures saying: "The labour market continues to improve month after month. The number of people in work has reached a new record high, up by more than 300 thousand over the last year. With nearly three quarters of working age people in work, the UK has the best performing labour market of the major world economies."

The latest labour market statistics show the growth in employment continues. In December-February 2004 there were 183 thousand more people in work than in the previous quarter and 318 thousand more than a year ago. There are now 28.33 million people in work in the UK, the highest figure ever recorded. The employment rate is 74.9 per cent, up from 74.6 per cent a year ago.

"Unemployment is at its lowest for nearly thirty years and is continuing to fall. A stable economy encourages new firms to set up and others to invest and grow. This means there are thousands of new job opportunities coming up every day, enabling more people to realise their ambition of returning to work," Andrew Smith continued.

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