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Round-up of the week

Posted on 20th March 2015

A positive set of labour market statistics and the final Budget before the general election made sure there are plenty of talking points this week…

Employment rate climbs to 59.7 per cent 

A new report by the CBI has revealed that the number of people in work went up by 143,000 during the three months to January 2015. This means the employment rate stands at 59.7 per cent - with 30.9 million people currently in work.

Figures showed that many of the new jobs being created are in administration and support services, while openings in real estate, construction and scientific activities are also opening up.

The CBI added that the rate of wage inflation is slowing down - while it stood at 1.7 per cent in the three months to December 2014, the figure dropped to 1.6 per cent in the three months to January 2015.

Nevertheless, the organisation believes that since pay growth is outpacing rises in the cost of goods and services, employees should "still be feeling better off".

Experts respond to Budget

This week, chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered his final Budget ahead of the general election. The response was mixed among the business community, with some experts and organisations praising some elements of the speech and criticising others.

For instance, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation was pleased to see Mr Osborne stepping up his efforts to curb tax evasion and increase the personal tax-free allowance to £10,800 next year.

However, the organisation sounded a note of caution, with policy advisor David Geary insisting that "getting more people into work and ensuring work pays must be a priority". He also called on the government to coordinate industrial, regional and education policies in order to help tackle skill shortages throughout the country.

The British Chambers of Commerce, meanwhile, said the chancellor appears to have "pulled off a difficult balancing act, maintaining fiscal discipline while ensuring that necessary deficit reduction doesn't undermine the UK's growth prospects".

Director-general John Longworth said confidence, investment and job creation will be boosted by "lower business taxes, allowances for investment and targeted support for sectors, regions and small companies". 
"Yet the chancellor avoided the temptation to use newfound windfalls for gimmicks. His focus on fiscal responsibility will play well with business audiences," he commented.

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, added that Mr Osborne's Budget provides a "clear plan for fiscal health and growth" and "some encouraging measures to help businesses create jobs for the benefit of all".

He pointed out that since the fiscal picture is fairly bright at the moment, the chancellor has been able to recalibrate his deficit reduction plans. However, Mr Cridland said he needs to use this "fiscal breathing space" to achieve "intelligent reductions in public spending, together with much-needed infrastructure and innovation".