The media has been dominated by doom and gloom in recent weeks. Analysis of the reasons behind the Brexit vote point towards a deep seated sense of exclusion and dissatisfaction in many parts of the country. However, employment growth has been a real success story in recent years.
Yesterday's figures showed that the employment rate, at 74%, is the highest since comparable records began in 1971. Employment growth in 2014-15 was the fastest since the late 1980s and was mainly driven by increases in full-time private sector jobs. The number of children living in workless households has fallen from 23% in 1994-5 to 15% in 2014-15. Household earnings have been rising, because more second earners are finding work and people are working more hours.
This is, of course, to be hugely welcomed. But why isn't the outlook more optimistic? Our research points to four reasons.
- The recovery has improved incomes, but very slowly. Overall, average incomes have finally risen above pre-recession levels but this has happened extremely slowly. Real earnings are still lower than in 2008, and not all have benefited from increased incomes. Adults aged 31 to 59 still have incomes only just matching pre-recession levels, and the incomes of those aged 22 to 30 are still 7% lower than they were in 2007/8.
We now have a new Prime Minister, a new Cabinet and a chance to map a positive path towards greater economic security and an orderly Brexit. When Theresa May set out her stall she promised to fight the 'burning injustice' of poverty, discrimination and lack of opportunity.
Our analysis shows that she needs to do this with a comprehensive plan to ensure the country's economic prosperity goes beyond rising employment. It needs better skills, affordable childcare and housing and better pay and security for those who are struggling to get by for us all to feel better off. Otherwise, the post-Brexit gloom may struggle to clear, despite the rise and rise in employment.