The number of EU nationals working in the UK up by 100,000, figures show
There were 2.35 million EU nationals working in the UK from October to December, 101,000 more than a year earlier.
The number of EU migrants working in the UK continues to rise in the wake of the Brexit vote but it is growing at its slowest annual pace for more than four years, official figures show.
There were an estimated 2.35 million overseas employees from the bloc from October to December 2017.
The figure was up by 101,000 on the equivalent period of 2016, the smallest year-on-year rise recorded since July-September 2013.
Data on employment levels by nationality have come under scrutiny following the EU referendum.
Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics at King’s College London, said: “Since the referendum, the number of people from elsewhere in the EU working in the UK has been broadly flat.
“That doesn’t suggest a ‘Brexodus’ but this is consistent with the immigration statistics which show that even before Brexit net migration from the EU has fallen sharply.
“And this in turn accounts for some of the growing pressures on NHS staffing, agriculture and other sectors that rely on migrant workers.”
Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the figures show “yet another increase in the number of EU migrant workers in the UK”.
He added: “There is no sign whatsoever of EU workers abandoning the UK. Indeed, this illustrates the need for a major decrease in immigration and Brexit is the opportunity to achieve it.”
The latest figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, show the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK has risen to the highest level on record.
In the final quarter of last year there were 364,000 nationals of the two countries in employment in the UK, an increase of 79,000 on the last three months of 2016.
Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and restrictions on nationals of the eastern European states working in Britain were lifted in January 2014.
The number of workers from 14 long-term member states including Germany, Italy, Spain and France also went up, from 935,000 in October-December 2016 to 1,014,000 in the fourth quarter of last year.
However, a different pattern is apparent for nationals of eight central and eastern European countries.
In the latest period there were an estimated 961,000 employees from the so-called EUA8 countries which joined the EU in 2004, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, a fall of around 53,000 compared with October-December 2016.
The figures also show a drop in the number of overseas workers from the rest of the world.
There were 1.17 million non-EU nationals working in the UK in October to December, 68,000 fewer than a year earlier.
There is no sign whatsoever of EU workers abandoning the UK. Indeed, this illustrates the need for a major decrease in immigration and Brexit is the opportunity to achieve it Alp Mehmet, Migration Watch
Statisticians say the estimates relate to the number of people in employment and should not be used as a proxy for flows of foreign migrants into the country.
Government officials are working to draw up post-Brexit arrangements which incorporate an end to free movement rules while ensuring that any fall in overseas labour does not damage the economy.
Analysis published last year showed EU migrants account for as many as one in 10 employees in some sectors.
Figures for 2016 showed workers from the bloc were employed in industries including manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare and financial services.