Employment in the UK: August 2021

Estimates of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for the UK.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

17 August 2021

The effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our capacity means we have reviewed the existing labour market releases and have suspended some publications.

This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining labour market outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of the coronavirus. More details about the impact on labour market outputs can be found in our statement.

This is an accredited National Statistic. Click for information about types of official statistics.

Cyswllt:
Email Bob Watson

Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 August 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
14 September 2021

1. Other pages in this release

Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:

Reweighting

Labour Force Survey (LFS) responses published from 15 July 2021 have been reweighted to new populations using growth rates from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Real Time Information (RTI), to allow for different trends during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The reweighting gives improved estimates of both rates and levels.

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2. Main points

  • April to June 2021 estimates show quarterly decreases in the unemployment and economic inactivity rates, while the employment rate increased.

  • Total hours worked increased on the quarter with the relaxation of many coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.1%, 1.5 percentage points lower than before the pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020), but 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous quarter (January to March 2021).

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.7%, 0.8 percentage points higher than before the pandemic, but 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.1%, 0.9 percentage points higher than before the pandemic, but 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

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3. Coronavirus and measuring the labour market

Latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on interviews that took place from April to June 2021. Many of the government lockdown restrictions were eased during this period.

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the suspension of face-to-face interviewing, we had to make operational changes to the LFS, which moved to a "by telephone" approach. This introduced an increased non-response bias to the survey, which was partially mitigated by the introduction of housing tenure-based weights into the survey in October 2020, as detailed in Coronavirus and its impact on the Labour Force Survey.

However, it was acknowledged that further improvement work was required to deal with the increase in non-response from those with a non-UK country of birth or nationality. As a result, a new weighting methodology has been introduced, which calibrates to UK, EU and non-EU-born weighting populations for periods from January to March 2020. The impact on headline measures of rates is relatively small but there is a larger impact on estimates of levels and changes in levels. Further information is available in Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators, UK: 2020. All estimates in this release are based on the new methodology.

More about economy, business and jobs

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4. Summary

Figure 1: April to June 2021 estimates show a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate and the economic inactivity rate, while the employment rate increased

UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between April to June 2006 and April to June 2021

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Part of the increase in employment and fall in unemployment was because the quarterly net flow from unemployment to employment increased to a record high (Figure 2).

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Figure 2: There was a record high net flow of 299,000 from unemployment to employment

UK flows between employment, unemployment and economic inactivity (seasonally adjusted), between January to March 2021 and April to June 2021

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During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there was a decrease in the employment rate and an increase in the economic inactivity rate for both men and women. In both cases, the largest change was seen for men. For the unemployment rate, the size of the increase was similar for both men and women (Figure 3).

Young people (those aged 16 to 24 years) have been particularly affected by the pandemic, with the employment rate decreasing and the unemployment and economic inactivity rates increasing by more than seen for those aged 25 years and over. Over the last quarter, however, there was a stronger increase in the employment rate and a decrease in the unemployment and inactivity rates for young people (Figure 4).

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5. Employment

Following an increase in the employment rate since early 2012, the rate has decreased since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in December 2019 to February 2020; however, there has been an increase since the end of 2020.

The quarterly increase in employment was mainly driven by an increase in the number of full-time workers, which reached its highest level since before the start of the pandemic. While the number of people working part-time has decreased during the pandemic, in April to June 2021 there was the first quarterly increase in people working part-time since February to April 2020 (Figure 5).

Hours worked

Total actual weekly hours worked in the UK increased by 50.9 million hours from the previous quarter, to 1.00 billion hours in April to June 2021 (Figure 6). This coincided with the relaxing of coronavirus lockdown measures, which had stalled the recent recovery in total hours. However, this is still 4.8% below pre-pandemic levels (December 2019 to February 2020).

Imputation used for the Labour Force Survey was not designed to deal with the changes experienced in the labour market in recent months. Experimental work with adjusted methodology suggests that the existing methodology is understating the full increase in total hours, with the experimental methodology now suggesting the actual number of hours worked is approximately 1.2% higher than stated.

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6. Unemployment

The unemployment rate had generally been falling since late 2013 up until the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in December 2019 to February 2020. It has increased since then but has fallen since the end of 2020.

The quarterly decrease in unemployment was driven by those unemployed for up to 12 months. Quarterly decreases in those unemployed for up to 6 months have slowed in the latest period while those unemployed for between 6 and 12 months have decreased from the peak reached in the previous quarter (January to March 2021). Meanwhile, those in long-term unemployment (unemployed for over 12 months) continued to increase on the quarter (Figure 7).

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7. Economic inactivity

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate has generally been falling; however, it has increased during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In terms of reasons for economic inactivity (Figure 8), the increase since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020) was largely driven by:

  • those who are economically inactive because they are students, although this has decreased slightly in the latest period

  • those who are economically inactive because of "other" reasons, although this has decreased slightly since early 2021

This increase was offset somewhat by the large decrease in people who were economically inactive because they were looking after family or home.

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8. Redundancies

In April to June 2021, reports of redundancies in the three months prior to interview decreased by 1.9 per thousand employees on the quarter to 3.6 per thousand employees (Figure 9), similar to pre- coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels.

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9. Employment in the UK data

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A05 SA | Released 17 August 2021
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity broken down into age bands.

Full-time, part-time and temporary workers
Dataset EMP01 SA | Released 17 August 2021
Estimates of UK employment including a breakdown by sex, type of employment, and full-time and part-time working.

Actual weekly hours worked
Dataset HOUR01 SA | Released 17 August 2021
Estimates for the hours that people in employment work in the UK.

Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 17 August 2021
Estimates of unemployment in the UK including a breakdown by sex, age group and the length of time people are unemployed.

Economic inactivity by reason
Dataset INAC01 SA | Released 17 August 2021
Estimates of those not in the UK labour force measured by the reasons given for economic inactivity.

Labour Force Survey sampling variability
Dataset A11 | Released 17 August 2021
Labour Force Survey (LFS) sampling variability (95% confidence intervals).

Labour Force Survey single month estimates
Dataset X01 | Released 17 August 2021
Labour Force Survey (LFS) single-month estimates of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) since 2004. Not designated as National Statistics.

Labour Force Survey weekly estimates
Dataset X07 | Released 17 August 2021
Labour Force Survey (LFS) weekly estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and hours in the UK. All estimates are calculated from highly experimental weekly Labour Force Survey datasets.

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10. Glossary

Actual and usual hours worked

Statistics for usual hours worked measure how many hours people usually work per week. Compared with actual hours worked, they are not affected by absences and so can provide a better measure of normal working patterns. For example, a person who usually works 37 hours a week but who was on holiday for a week would be recorded as working zero actual hours for that week, while usual hours would be recorded as 37 hours.

Workers temporarily absent from a job as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would still be classed as employed; however, they would be employed working no hours. This has directly affected estimates of total actual hours worked during the pandemic. Since the average actual weekly hours are the average of all in employment, those temporarily absent from a job also affected these estimates.

Economic inactivity

People not in the labour force (also known as economically inactive) are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment because they have not been seeking work within the last four weeks and/or are unable to start work in the next two weeks. The economic inactivity rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are not in the labour force.

Employment

Employment measures the number of people in paid work or who had a job that they were temporarily away from (for example, because they were on holiday or off sick). This differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment.

Workers furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or those who are self-employed but temporarily not in work, have a reasonable expectation of returning to their jobs after a temporary period of absence. Therefore, they are classified as employed under the International Labour Organization definition.

A more detailed explanation is available in our guide to labour market statistics.

Redundancies

The redundancy estimates measure the number of people who were made redundant or who took voluntary redundancy in the three months before the Labour Force Survey interviews; it does not take into consideration planned redundancies.

Unemployment

Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are available to start work within the next two weeks. The unemployment rate is not the proportion of the total population who are unemployed. It is the proportion of the economically active population (that is, those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.

A more detailed glossary is available.

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11. Measuring the data

This bulletin relies on data collected from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the largest household survey in the UK.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the LFS Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report.

The LFS performance and quality monitoring reports provide data on response rates and other quality-related issues for the LFS.

Reweighting

Labour Force Survey (LFS) responses published from 15July 2021 have been reweighted to new populations using growth rates from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Real Time Information (RTI), to allow for different trends during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The reweighting gives improved estimates of both rates and levels.

Coronavirus

View more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, published on 6 May 2020.

View a comparison of our labour market data sources and the main differences.

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12. Strengths and limitations

Uncertainty in these data

The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty.

The figures in this bulletin come from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which gathers information from a sample of households across the UK rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations. Results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.

!

The data in this bulletin come from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households. It is not practical to survey every household each quarter, so these statistics are estimates based on a large sample.

As the number of people available in the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates that we can make from that sample size gets larger. Estimates for small groups (for example, unemployed people aged between 16 and 17 years), which are based on small subsets of the LFS sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups.

In general, changes in the numbers (and especially the rates) reported in this bulletin between three-month periods are small and are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.

Information on the quality of estimates is available in our Labour Force Survey sampling variability table.

Comparability

The data in this bulletin follow internationally accepted definitions specified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). This ensures that the estimates for the UK are comparable with those for other countries.

The annual reconciliation report of job estimates article, which compares the latest workforce jobs series estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the LFS and is usually published every March, has been postponed until we are able to take the latest adjustments to the LFS into account.

Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Bob Watson
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 1633 455400