Employment in the UK: December 2019

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

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Cyswllt:
Email Bob Watson

Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 December 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
21 January 2020

1. Other pages in this release

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

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2. Main points for August to October 2019

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.2%, 0.4 percentage points higher than a year earlier but little changed on the previous quarter; despite just reaching a new record high, the employment rate has been broadly flat over the last few quarters.

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%, 0.3 percentage points lower than a year earlier but largely unchanged on the previous quarter.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.8%, 0.2 percentage points lower than a year earlier but largely unchanged on the previous quarter.

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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.

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3. Employment

Employment measures the number of people aged 16 years and over in paid work. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in paid work.

Estimated employment rates for men and women aged between 16 and 64 years have generally been increasing since early 2012 but have levelled off in recent periods (as seen in Figure 1). For August to October 2019:

  • the estimated employment rate for people was a record high of 76.2%; this is 0.4 percentage points up on the year, but largely unchanged on the quarter

  • the estimated employment rate for men was 80.4%; this is 0.1 percentage points up on the year and on the quarter

  • the estimated employment rate for women was 72.0%; this is 0.8 percentage points up on the year, but 0.1 percentage points down on the quarter

The increase in the employment rate for women in recent years is partly a result of changes to the State Pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65 years.

Estimates for August to October 2019 show 32.80 million people aged 16 years and over in employment, 309,000 more than a year earlier. This annual increase was mainly driven by women (up 235,000 on the year) and full-time workers (up 272,000 on the year).

There was a 24,000 increase in employment on the quarter. This was driven by a quarterly increase for men (up 54,000) and full-time employees (up 50,000 to a record high of 20.71 million), but partly offset by a 30,000 decrease for women and a 61,000 decrease for part-time employees.

Increases in the number of full-time workers have been driving increases in employment in recent years, while the number of part-time workers has been relatively flat in comparison (as seen in Figure 2). In August to October 2019 it is estimated that full-time employment reached a record high of 24.24 million.

Looking at the estimates for August to October 2019 by type of employment:

  • there were 27.66 million paid employees (84.3% of all people in employment), 109,000 more than a year earlier

  • there were a record 4.96 million self-employed people (15.1% of all people in employment), 182,000 more than a year earlier

Since the latter half of 2012, the annual increases for employees have generally been greater than for the self-employed. In recent periods this has reversed (as seen in Figure 3), and in August to October 2019, the annual increase in the number of self-employed people was two-thirds larger than the annual increase in the number of employees.

The annual growth in self-employment comprised a 96,000 increase for men and an 86,000 increase for women. This latter increase was the largest since the year to February to April 2017.

These estimates for paid employees and self-employed people make up over 99% of all people in employment in the UK. The total employment figure also includes two other minor categories as explained in the Guide to labour market statistics.

Looking at employment rate changes between August to October 2014 and August to October 2019 by age group (Figure 4), most age groups have shown continuous steady growth in the employment rate, consistent with the headline employment rate. The exception is the 16- to 24-year-old employment rate which does not behave like the age bands between 25 and 64 years. This is partly because of the different way in which full-time students interact with the labour market.

Hours worked

Since estimates began in 1971, total hours worked by women have generally increased, reflecting increases in both the employment rate for women and the UK population. In contrast, total hours worked by men have been relatively stable, with the level in August to October 2019 being virtually the same as the level in January to March 1971 (628 million hours). This is because falls in the employment rate for men, and increases in the share of part-time working have been roughly offset by population increases.

Between August to October 2018 and August to October 2019, total actual weekly hours worked in the UK increased by 1.0% (to reach a record high of 1.06 billion hours), while average actual weekly hours increased by 0.1% (to 32.2 hours). Therefore, the annual increase in total hours was mainly driven by the 1.0% increase in employment over the last year.

In August to October 2019, men worked an average of 36.3 hours per week, a decrease of 0.2 hours compared with a year earlier. In contrast, the average actual weekly hours for women increased by 0.3 hours over the year, to a record high of 27.6 hours. Total actual weekly hours worked by women also increased to a record high, of 427.44 million hours.

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4. 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 (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.

Estimated unemployment rates for both men and women aged 16 years and over have generally been falling since late 2013, but have levelled off in recent periods (as seen in Figure 5).

For August to October 2019:

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for all people was 3.8%, 0.3 percentage points lower than a year earlier but largely unchanged on the previous quarter

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for men was 4.0%, 0.2 percentage points lower than a year earlier but largely unchanged on the previous quarter

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for women was a record low of 3.5%, down 0.4 percentage points on the year and down 0.1 percentage points on the quarter

Between August to October 2014 and August to October 2019:

  • the estimated unemployment rate for all people fell from 6.0% to 3.8%

  • the estimated unemployment rate for men fell from 6.2% to 4.0%

  • the estimated unemployment rate for women fell from 5.7% to 3.5%

For August to October 2019, an estimated 1.28 million people were unemployed. This is 93,000 fewer than a year earlier and 673,000 fewer than five years earlier.

Looking in more detail at this fall of 673,000 over the last five years:

  • the estimated number of people unemployed for up to six months fell by 155,000 to 782,000, with women in this category reaching a record low of 368,000

  • for those unemployed for over six and up to 12 months, the number fell by 140,000 to 191,000

  • the largest fall was for long-term unemployment (those unemployed for over one year), which was down 377,000 to 308,000

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5. Economic inactivity

Economic inactivity measures people without a job but who are not classed as unemployed because they have not been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and/or they are unable to start work within the next two weeks. Our headline measure of economic inactivity is for those aged between 16 and 64 years.

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate for all people aged between 16 and 64 years has been generally falling (although it increased during recessions). This is because of a gradual fall in the economic inactivity rate for women (as seen in Figure 8).

For people aged between 16 and 64 years, for August to October 2019:

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for all people was 20.8%, down 0.2 percentage points on the year but largely unchanged on the quarter

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for men was 16.2%, up 0.1 percentage points on the year but down 0.1 percentage points on the quarter

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for women was 25.3%, down 0.5 percentage points on the year but up 0.2 percentage points on the quarter

Estimates for August to October 2019 show 8.61 million people aged between 16 and 64 years not in the labour force (economically inactive). This was 60,000 fewer than a year earlier and 447,000 fewer than five years earlier.

Looking in more detail at the estimated fall of 447,000 in economic inactivity over the last five years, the categories showing the largest decreases were people looking after the family or home (down 338,000 to a record low of 1.97 million) and those retiring from the labour force (down 188,000).

The fall was almost entirely driven by women, with a decrease of 398,000. This reflects changes to the State Pension age, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65 years, as well as more women in younger age groups participating in the labour market.

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6. Employment data

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A05 SA | Updated on 17 December 2019
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity broken down into age bands.

Full-time, part-time and temporary workers
Dataset EMP01 SA | Updated on 17 December 2019
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 | Updated on 17 December 2019
Estimates for the hours that people in employment work in the UK.

Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Updated on 17 December 2019
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 | Updated on 17 December 2019
Estimates of those not in the UK labour force measured by the reasons given for inactivity.

Labour Force Survey sampling variability
Dataset A11 | Updated on 17 December 2019
Labour Force Survey sampling variability (95% confidence intervals).

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7. 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.

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

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 (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.

A more detailed glossary is available.

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8. 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 Labour Force Survey (LFS) QMI.

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

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9. Strengths and limitations

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 such as time and cost constraints. 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.

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 (for example, the total number of unemployed people).

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.

Comparability

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

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.supply@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455070