The number of European Union (EU) nationals working in the UK has increased over the past 12 months, new figures show.
Some 2.37 million EU nationals were estimated to be in paid employment in the UK between April and June 2019, up 4% on the same period in 2018.
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), suggest the number of EU nationals within the UK workforce has returned to levels last seen just after the EU referendum in 2016, and before a dip in late 2017 and early 2018.
However, an immigration expert at the University of Oxford cautioned against reading too much into the trend.
Madeleine Sumption, director of the university’s Migration Observatory, said the statistics were “volatile” and tended to “hop around from year to year”.
“My feeling is this may well be statistical noise,” she told PA.
“I would want to see more evidence if this is a trend and the UK is becoming more attractive to EU workers.“
The national insurance number registration statistics for EU nationals showed a small decline in the last year, she added.
The highest-ever number of EU nationals working in the UK was recorded in January to March 2019, when the level reached 2.38 million.
Tuesday’s ONS figures also showed the employment rate among EU nationals living in the UK reached 83.3% in April to June 2019.
The equivalent figure for UK nationals was 76.1%.
Workers from Romania and Bulgaria had the highest employment rate among EU nationals (85.9%), followed by 83.7% for the “EU8” block of countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia).
Ms Sumption said there had been a “steady increase over the last few years in employment rates” for migrants, adding: “It’s a really high employment rate.
“It shows that even if the UK has become less attractive to EU nationals to some extent, the UK labour market is still being quite accommodating.”
Hiring new staff was “getting increasingly challenging” because of shortages of people with a broad range of skills in light of “growing uncertainty” around Brexit, according to the British Chambers of Commerce’s latest quarterly outlook.
The UK had the third highest rate of employment for women and men, with Germany and Japan coming out top respectively, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Non-UK workers can mean anyone who does not have UK nationality including migrant workers – who were previously living in the UK or who have recently travelled into the country and taken up work. It can also refer to people who were born in the UK but may not have citizenship, the ONS said.
The latest figures on migration to the UK are due to be published later this month.