Official figures show that the number of adults in the UK who are unemployed due to a long-term illness has reached a new high, amid concerns about labour shortages in the UK economy.
According to the Office for National Statistics, unemployment in the United Kingdom fell to 3.5% in the three months to August from 3.8% previously, the lowest level since 1974.
However, the drop in the headline rate coincided with a significant increase in the number of working-age adults classified as “economically inactive,” which means they are neither employed nor looking for work.
While there are about 1.2 million people unemployed, it said the inactivity rate rose by 0.6 percentage points over the three-month period to 21.7%, with almost 9 million people aged 16-64 economically inactive.
Students drove the increase, as did long-term sickness, which reached a new high, with the greatest increases in inactivity rates among those aged 50-64 and 16- to 24-year-olds.
Almost 2.5 million people are sedentary due to long-term health issues.
Rising sickness rates, according to economists, would pose a serious challenge to the government’s economic growth agenda.
According to experts, rising sickness rates are preventing working-age adults from entering the labour force as pressure mounts on the health-care system from Covid backlogs and after a decade of public-sector austerity.