Employment in the UK: February 2024

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

Hwn yw'r datganiad diweddaraf. Gweld datganiadau blaenorol

Cyswllt:
Email Bob Watson and Siân Evans

Dyddiad y datganiad:
13 February 2024

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
12 March 2024

2. Main points

  • Labour Force Survey estimates have been reweighted for periods from July to September 2022; headline UK seasonally adjusted series prior to this have been modelled, but other series have a discontinuity at this point.

  • Increased volatility of LFS estimates, resulting from smaller achieved sample sizes, means that estimates of quarterly change should be treated with additional caution and we recommend using them as part of our suite of labour market indicators alongside workforce jobs, claimant count data, and Pay As You Earn Real Time Information (PAYE RTI) estimates.

  • The UK employment rate (75.0%) remains below estimates a year ago (October to December 2022), but has increased in the latest quarter.

  • The UK unemployment rate (3.8%) decreased in the latest quarter, returning to the rate a year ago (October to December 2022).

  • The UK economic inactivity rate (21.9%) is above estimates a year ago (October to December 2022), but was largely unchanged in the latest quarter.

  • Total weekly hours worked have fallen slightly compared with a year ago, but have increased on the quarter to 1.05 billion hours.

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The ongoing challenges with response rates and levels mean that LFS-based labour market statistics will be badged as official statistics in development until further review. Read more in Section 11: Measuring the data section.

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3. Coronavirus (COVID-19) and measuring the labour market

The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on interviews that took place from October to December 2023.

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 our Coronavirus and its impact on the Labour Force Survey article.

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, an adjusted Labour Force Survey weighting methodology was introduced in July 2021. Further information is available in our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators, UK: 2022 article.

From our February 2024 labour market release, LFS periods from July to September 2022 onwards have been reweighted to incorporate the latest estimates of the size and composition of the UK population. This reweighting creates a discontinuity between June to August 2022 and July to September 2022. Users should take this discontinuity into consideration when considering long-term movements in the series.

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has modelled the seasonally adjusted UK levels of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity by sex and age-band back to the start of the population revisions in June to August 2011. This has been done by scaling to the latest population estimates, while taking account of the relative revisions to population by sex and age-band in each year over the revision period. This ensures that the headline series in Table 1, Table 2 (1) and Table 2 (2) (also available in A02SA, A05SA and A01 Tables 1 and 2) are comparable over the full series.

This reweighting does not address the volatility seen in recent periods and that may be seen to some extent in the future. Therefore, we advise increased caution when interpreting short-term changes in series and recommend using them as part of a suite of labour market indicators, alongside Workforce Jobs, Claimant Count data and PAYE RTI estimates.

LFS estimates are currently not considered National Statistics and are designated as official statistics in development.

For further information, please see our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators article.

More about economy, business and jobs

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4. Summary

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5. Employment

Following an increase in the employment rate since early 2012, the rate decreased from the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There has largely been an increase since the end of 2020. In the latest quarter, the employment rate increased and remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Full-time employees drove the increase during the latest quarter, largely recovering from a slump observed throughout 2023. Full-time self-employed workers also increased on the quarter. Meanwhile, numbers of part-time employees and part-time self-employed workers fell in the latest quarter.

The number of people in employment with second jobs also continued to fall in the latest quarter to 3.5% of all in employment.

We also publish estimates of payrolled employees in our Earnings and employment from Pay As You Earn Real Time Information, UK bulletin and estimates of the number of jobs in our Vacancies and Jobs in the UK bulletin.

Hours worked

The number of total actual weekly hours worked have been generally increasing in the UK since the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown measures. However, this has been slightly decreasing since April to June 2022. In the latest quarter, total actual weekly hours worked have fallen slightly compared with a year ago (October to December 2022), but have increased slightly in the latest quarter, by 6.6 million hours to 1.04 billion hours in October to December 2023. Both men and women's hours increased on the quarter.

Average actual weekly hours worked have also fallen compared with October to December 2022, but have increased in the latest quarter.

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6. Unemployment

The unemployment rate had generally been falling from late 2013 until the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Thereafter it increased until the end of 2020 but had returned to pre-pandemic rates. However, the unemployment rate decreased in the latest quarter.

The quarterly decrease was driven by those unemployed for up to 12 months. However, those unemployed for up to 6 months remain above the estimates from a year ago (October to December 2022). Meanwhile, those unemployed for over 6 months have fallen in comparison with October to December 2022.

We also publish the Claimant Count dataset, a measure of the number of people who are receiving a benefit principally for the reason of being unemployed.

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7. Economic inactivity

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate had generally been falling; however, it increased during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and was largely unchanged in the latest quarter.

Increases in economic inactivity in the first year of the pandemic were largely driven by those aged 16 to 24 years. Following the pandemic, increases were driven by those aged 50 to 64 years (Figure 4). Economic inactivity was largely unchanged in the latest quarter, with an increase in inactivity among those aged 25 to 34 years, offsetting decreases in all other age groups. Compared with a year ago (October to December 2022), economic inactivity increased, driven by those aged 16 to 34 years, while inactivity among those aged 35 to 64 years decreased.

Those inactive because they were long-term sick and because they were students increased in the latest quarter, but these increases were offset by falls in those looking after the family or home and those temporary sick. The increase compared with a year ago (October to December 2022) was mainly driven by those inactive because they were long-term sick.

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8. Redundancies

In October to December 2023, the number of people reporting redundancy in the three months prior to interview increased by 1.4 per thousand employees compared with the previous quarter, to 4.0 per thousand employees. This is also an increase compared with a year ago.

We also publish our HR1: Potential redundancies dataset showing potential redundancies, covering those notified by employers to the Insolvency Service through the HR1 form, broken down by region and industry.

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9. Employment in the UK data

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity by age group (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset A05 SA | Released 13 February 2024
Employment, unemployment and economic activity and inactivity by age group (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

Full-time, part-time and temporary workers (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset EMP01 SA | Released 13 February 2024
Full-time, part-time and temporary workers (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

Actual weekly hours worked (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset HOUR01 SA | Released 13 February 2024
Actual weekly hours worked (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

Unemployment by age and duration (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 13 February 2024
Unemployment by age and duration (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

Economic inactivity by reason (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset INAC01 SA | Released 13 February 2024
Economic inactivity (aged 16 to 64 years) by reason (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

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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 coronavirus pandemic. Since the average actual weekly hours are the average of all in employment, those temporarily absent from a job also affected these estimates.

Claimant Count

The Claimant Count is an official statistic in development that measures the number of people who are receiving a benefit principally for the reason of being unemployed. Currently the Claimant Count consists of those receiving Jobseekers' Allowance, and Univeral Credit claimants in the "searching for work" conditionality group.

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 (CJRS), or those who were self-employed but temporarily not in work, had a reasonable expectation of returning to their jobs after a temporary period of absence. Therefore, they were classified as employed under the International Labour Organization (ILO) 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 that is unemployed. It is the proportion of the economically active population (that is, those in work plus those seeking and available to work) that is 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.

Official statistics in development

These statistics are labelled as "official statistics in development". Until September 2023, these were called "experimental statistics". Read more about the change in our guide to official statistics in development.

These statistics are based on information from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The reweighting exercise has improved the representativeness of our LFS estimates for periods from July to September 2022, reducing potential bias in our estimates. Nonetheless, the ongoing challenges with response rates and levels mean that LFS-based labour market statistics are now badged as official statistics in development until further review. This is also in line with the letter from the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), stating that LFS statistics should not be published as accredited official statistics until OSR has reviewed them. We would advise caution when interpreting short-term changes in headline LFS rates and recommend using them as part of our suite of labour market indicators alongside Workforce Jobs, claimant count data and Pay As You Earn Real Time Information (PAYE RTI) estimates. 

We are transforming how we collect and produce the LFS data to improve the quality of these statistics. We have published a Labour market transformation article providing an update on the transformation of labour market statistics. The Transformed Labour Force Survey will become the primary source of information on the labour market from September 2024. 

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Read more about how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus pandemic in our Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics article.

For a comparison of our labour market data sources and the main differences, read our Comparison of labour market data sources methodology.

Making our published spreadsheets accessible

Following the Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on releasing statistics in spreadsheets, we will be amending our published tables over the coming months to improve usability, accessibility and machine readability of our published statistics. To help users change to the new formats, we will be publishing sample versions of a selection of our tables, and where practical, initially publish the tables in both the new and current formats. If you have any questions or comments, please email labour.market@ons.gov.uk.

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12. Strengths and limitations

Uncertainty in these data

The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty. For more information on uncertainty, please see our Uncertainty and how we measure it for our surveys web page.

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. For more information on sampling, see Section 2 of our Uncertainty and how we measure it for our surveys webpage.

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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.

As the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates gets larger. Estimates for small groups, 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 quarters 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.

Our annual reconciliation report of job estimates article compares the latest workforce jobs series estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the LFS. It is usually published in March each year following the benchmarking of Workforce Jobs.

Further information is available in our guide to labour market statistics.

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14. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistical (ONS), released 13 February 2024, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Employment in the UK: February 2024

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

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