Employment in the UK: March 2019

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

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Cyswllt:
Email Richard Clegg

Dyddiad y datganiad:
19 March 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
16 April 2019

1. Other pages in this release

Commentary on topics covered in the previous Labour market statistics bulletin is now split into four separate bulletins. Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:

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2. Main points for November 2018 to January 2019

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than for a year earlier (75.3%) and the highest figure on record.

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%; it has not been lower since November 1974 to January 1975.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.7%, lower than for a year earlier (21.2%) and the lowest figure on record.

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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. Analysis

Employment

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

Estimated employment rates for men and women aged between 16 and 64 years have been generally increasing since early 2012. For November 2018 to January 2019, the employment rate:

  • for all people was estimated at 76.1%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971

  • for men was estimated at 80.5%; it has not been higher since December 1990 to February 1991

  • for women was estimated at 71.8%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971

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

Looking at the estimates for employment rates by age band for November 2018 to January 2019, the highest were for those aged from 35 to 49 years (85.4%) and for those aged from 25 to 34 years (84.2%).

Estimates for November 2018 to January 2019 show 32.71 million people aged 16 years and over in employment, 473,000 more than for a year earlier. This estimated annual increase of 473,000 was due mainly to more people working full-time (up 424,000 on the year to reach 24.12 million). Part-time working also contributed, with an increase of 49,000 on the year to reach 8.60 million.

Estimates for November 2018 to January 2019 show that there were:

  • 27.70 million paid employees (84.7% of all people in employment), 424,000 more than a year earlier

  • 4.84 million self-employed people (14.8% of all people in employment), 65,000 more than a year earlier

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

Since estimates began in 1971, total hours worked by women have generally increased, reflecting increases in the employment rate for women and increases in the UK population. In contrast, total hours worked by men have been relatively stable. This is because falls in the employment rate for men have been roughly offset by population increases.

Between November 2017 to January 2018 and November 2018 to January 2019:

  • hours worked in the UK increased by 1.2% (to reach 1.05 billion hours)

  • the number of people in employment in the UK increased by 1.5% (to reach 32.71 million)

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 the proportion of all employed and unemployed people (not the proportion of the total population) who are unemployed.

The unemployment rates for both men and women aged 16 years and over have been generally falling since late 2013.

For November 2018 to January 2019, the unemployment rate:

  • for everyone was estimated at 3.9%; it has not been lower since November 1974 to January 1975

  • for men was estimated at 4.0%; it has not been lower since April to June 1975

  • for women was estimated at 3.8%, the lowest since comparable records began in 1971

Over the last five years the estimated unemployment rate for men has fallen from 7.4% to 4.0%. The estimated unemployment rate for women has shown a smaller fall over this period – from 6.9% to 3.8%.

For November 2018 to January 2019, an estimated 1.34 million people were unemployed, 112,000 fewer than for a year earlier. There have not been fewer unemployed people in the UK since October to December 1975.

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 from 16 to 64 years.

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate for all people aged from 16 to 64 years has been generally falling (although it increased during recessions). This is due to a gradual fall in the economic inactivity rate for women.

For people aged from 16 to 64 years for November 2018 to January 2019, the economic inactivity rate:

  • for all people was estimated at 20.7%, the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1971

  • for men was estimated at 16.0%; it has not been lower since May to July 2003

  • for women was estimated at 25.3%, the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1971

Estimates for November 2018 to January 2019 showed 8.55 million people aged from 16 to 64 years not in the labour force (economically inactive), 194,000 fewer than for a year earlier and the lowest since January to March 1993. Of these, 3.29 million were men (116,000 fewer than for a year earlier) and 5.26 million were women (78,000 fewer than for a year earlier).

Looking now at changes in economic inactivity over the five-year period between November 2013 to January 2014 and November 2018 to January 2019, the categories showing the largest falls in the estimates were women looking after the family or home (down 277,000) and women taking early retirement (down 253,000). This reflects ongoing 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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4. Data

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

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A05 SA | Released 19 March 2019
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity broken down into age bands.

Full-time, part-time and temporary workers
Dataset EMP01 SA | Released 19 March 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 | Released 19 March 2019
Estimates for the hours that people in employment work in the UK.

Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 19 March 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 | Released 19 March 2019
Estimates of those not in the UK labour force measured by the reasons given for inactivity.

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5. Glossary

Employment

Employment measures the number of people in paid work and differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 years who are in paid work.

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.

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 from 16 to 64 years who are not in the labour force.

A more detailed Glossary is available.

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6. Measuring the data

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

The Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report pulls together important qualitative information on the various dimensions of data quality, as well as providing a summary of the methods used to compile the output.

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

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7. Strengths and limitations

The figures in this bulletin come from the Labour Force Survey, 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 from 16 to 17 years), which are based on quite small subsets of the Labour Force Survey 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.

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

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8. You might also be interested in

Labour market economic commentary

Article | Released 19 March 2019
Additional economic analysis of the latest UK labour market headline statistics and long-term trends.

Regional labour market statistics in the UK

Bulletin | Released 19 March 2019
Regional, local authority and Parliamentary constituency breakdowns of changes in UK employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics.

Public sector employment

Bulletin | Released 19 March 2019
Quarterly estimates of the number of people employed in the public and private sectors in the UK. The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations.

Young people not in education, employment or training

Bulletin | Released 28 February 2019
Quarterly bulletin examining estimates of men and women aged 16 to 24 years in the UK who are not studying or in employment.

Working and workless households in the UK

Bulletin | Released 6 March 2019
Commentary on quarterly estimates of the economic status of UK households and the people living in them.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Richard Clegg
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455400