The number of workers in the U.K. who hail from elsewhere in the European Union posted the steepest drop on record in September, signaling that Britain's impending exit from the EU is denting its appeal to those on the continent seeking work.
The number of EU nationals employed in the U.K. declined by 132,000 in the year through September, the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997, the Office for National Statistics said Tuesday.
The decline was driven by a fall in the number of workers from Poland, the Czech Republic and another six Eastern European nations that joined the EU in 2004. The number of nationals from those countries that are employed in the U.K. fell by 15%, the ONS said.
The U.K. has long been a magnet for European citizens seeking employment but Tuesday's figures suggest that Britain's appeal is beginning to wane. And Brexit isn't the only likely factor: Growth in the eurozone and the wider EU has picked up after a long spell of stagnation, with wage growth in some parts of the bloc accelerating rapidly.
Unease over high levels of immigration was a significant factor behind the U.K.'s 2016 decision to exit the EU. Britain is due to leave the EU in March next year yet U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has yet to agree on terms for withdrawal with Brussels.
The ONS said Tuesday that unemployment in the U.K. rose by 21,000 in the three months through September, nudging the jobless rate up to 4.1% from 4.0%.
Wage growth, however, accelerated to its fastest pace in almost a decade. Average earnings excluding bonuses were 3.2% higher in September than a year earlier.