British employment rate record high in final quarter of 2018 despite sluggish economy

LONDON. KAZINFORM Britain's employment rate reached a record high of 75.8 percent in the final quarter of 2018, staging a sharp contrast with the contracted economy before Brexit, Xinhua reported.

An estimated 32.6 million people were in work, 167,000 more than the third quarter and 444,000 more year on year, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday, describing the employment rate as the "joint-highest" since comparable estimates began in 1971.

The employment figures came as the British economy grew just 0.2 percent in the same period, a fall of 0.4 percentage points from the third quarter and the whole year GDP growth slipped to 1.4 percent, its lowest since 2012.

The ONS estimated the number of unemployed people was 1.36 million, 100,000 fewer than a year earlier while average weekly earnings increased by 1.3 percent in real terms including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

But there are worries that Brexit uncertainties might yet unleash its impact on the so-far robust job market. Manufacturing, one of the biggest employers in Britain, might see jobs at stake once the country leaves the EU.

A major survey carried out for Make UK (formerly EEF), the manufacturers' organization, by YouGov, shows that 49 percent of companies believe leaving the EU with "no deal" would make Britain a less attractive location for manufacturing.

Of those who have offshore production, almost two thirds have switched production elsewhere in the EU. By contrast, just one fifth of companies have switched production back to Britain, the survey said.

Weaker international demand, sluggish diesel car sales and Brexit-related uncertainty have bitten into Britain's car industry, with investment falling by 50 percent in 2018. Some major car producers are pondering to move their production base from Britain after Brexit.

On Tuesday, Japanese firm Honda announced plans to close the Swindon car plant in Britain in 2021, with the loss of about 3,500 jobs. Honda has announced it is part of a global restructuring, brushing off Brexit speculations.

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