Employment in the UK: March 2020

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

This is an accredited national statistic.

Cyswllt:
Email Bob Watson

Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 March 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
21 April 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 November 2019 to January 2020

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at a joint record high of 76.5%, 0.4 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points up on the previous quarter.

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, largely unchanged compared with a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at a record low of 20.4%, 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous year and 0.4 percentage points lower than 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 people aged between 16 and 64 years have generally been increasing since early 2012. Recent increases have largely been driven by increases in the employment rate for women (Figure 1).

For November 2019 to January 2020:

  • the estimated employment rate for people was at a joint record high of 76.5%; this is 0.4 percentage points up on the year and 0.3 percentage points up on the quarter

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

  • the estimated employment rate for women was at a record high of 72.5%; this is 0.7 percentage points up on the year and 0.5 percentage points up 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. However, since the equalisation of the State Pension age, the employment rate for women has continued to rise.

Estimates for November 2019 to January 2020 show a record 32.99 million people aged 16 years and over in employment, 271,000 more than a year earlier. This annual increase was mainly driven by full-time workers (up 345,000 on the year to a record high of 24.46 million), women in employment (up 262,000 to a record high of 15.66 million) and workers aged 50 to 64 years (up 168,000 to 9.31 million). The annual increase in employment was partly offset by the largest decrease for part-time employees since August to October 2011 (down 127,000 on the year to 6.91 million).

There was a 184,000 increase in employment on the quarter. This was, again, mainly driven by full-time workers (up 225,000; the largest quarterly increase on record) and women in employment (up 171,000; the largest quarterly increase on record). The quarterly increase for women working full-time (up 179,000 to a record high of 9.35 million) was also the largest on record.

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 (Figure 2).

The rate of growth for women working full-time has been consistently higher than for men over the last few years, with women being the main drivers of the strong increase in full-time employment. For November 2019 to January 2020, the number of women working full-time increased by 10.3% compared with the same period four years ago, while the number of men increased by 3.8% over the same period. In comparison, the number of women working part-time increased by 1.2% and the number of men working part-time decreased by 2.5%.

Looking at the estimates for November 2019 to January 2020 by type of employment:

  • there were a record 27.76 million paid employees (84.2% of all people in employment), 57,000 more than a year earlier

  • there were a record 5.03 million self-employed people (15.3% of all people in employment), 194,000 more than a year earlier

Self-employed women only account for around 1 in 20 of all people in employment, however, they have seen the largest rate of increase over the last 10 years. Between November 2009 to January 2010 and November 2019 to January 2020, the estimated number of women in self-employment has grown by 51.3%. Over this period the estimated number of men in self-employment has increased by 19.7%. In comparison, the rate of increase for employees has been more modest, with women increasing by 11.6% and men increasing by 11.0% (Figure 3).

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.

Those aged 25 to 64 years have been driving increases in employment rates in recent years, with the largest increase seen for women. In comparison, employment rates have been relatively flat for younger and older people over the last five years. This is partly because of the different way in which full-time students interact with the labour market (Figure 4).

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 November 2019 to January 2020 being close to the level in January to March 1971 (622 million and 628 million hours, respectively). 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 November 2018 to January 2019 and November 2019 to January 2020, total actual weekly hours worked in the UK increased by 0.3% (to 1.05 billion hours), while average actual weekly hours decreased by 0.5% (to 31.9 hours). Therefore, the annual increase in total hours was driven by the 0.8% increase in employment over the last year.

In November 2019 to January 2020, the average actual hours worked per week by men decreased by 0.4 hours compared with a year earlier, to a joint record low of 35.9 hours. In contrast, the average actual weekly hours for women increased by 0.2 hours over the year, to 27.4 hours. This increase in average hours for women has offset the decrease in average hours for men and, combined with the increase in employment, has resulted in an annual increase in total actual weekly hours worked of 3.6 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 (Figure 5).

For November 2019 to January 2020:

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for all people was 3.9%; this is largely unchanged compared with a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for men was 4.1%; this is 0.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for women was 3.7%; this is down 0.2 percentage points on the year but up 0.1 percentage points on the quarter.

Between November 2014 to January 2015 and November 2019 to January 2020 (Figure 6):

  • the estimated unemployment rate for all people fell from 5.7% to 3.9% (slightly above the recent low of 3.8%)

  • the estimated unemployment rate for men fell from 5.9% to 4.1% (slightly above the recent low of 3.9%)

  • the estimated unemployment rate for women fell from 5.4% to 3.7% (slightly above the recent low of 3.5%)

For November 2019 to January 2020, an estimated 1.34 million people were unemployed. This is 5,000 more than a year earlier but 515,000 fewer than five years earlier. The small increase on the year is the first annual increase in unemployment since May to July 2012, and is driven by a 20,000 increase for men.

Looking in more detail at the fall of 515,000 in unemployment over the last five years (Figure 7):

  • the estimated number of people unemployed for up to six months fell by 119,000 to 825,000, but has increased by 39,000 over the last year

  • for those unemployed for over 6 months and up to 12 months, the number fell by 74,000 to 212,000, but has been broadly flat for the last three years

  • the largest fall was for long-term unemployment (those unemployed for over one year), which was down 322,000 to 306,000

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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 generally been 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). Over recent years, the economic inactivity rate for men has been relatively flat.

For people aged between 16 and 64 years, for November 2019 to January 2020:

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for all people was a record low of 20.4%; this is down 0.3 percentage points on the year and down 0.4 percentage points on the quarter

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for men was 16.0%; this is largely unchanged on the year but down 0.2 percentage points on the quarter

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for women was a record low of 24.7%; this is down 0.7 percentage points both on the year and on the quarter

Estimates for November 2019 to January 2020 show 8.43 million people aged between 16 and 64 years not in the labour force (economically inactive). This was 118,000 fewer than a year earlier and 614,000 fewer than five years earlier. The annual decrease was driven by women, with the level down by 129,000 to reach a record low of 5.13 million.

The estimated fall of 614,000 in economic inactivity over the last five years was largely driven by women, with a decrease of 499,000. 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.

Looking a little more closely at the fall, the category showing the largest decrease was people looking after the family or home (down 437,000 to a record low of 1.87 million). When the series began in March to May 1993, looking after the family or home was the most common reason for inactivity, comprising 35.3% of the total number of economically inactive people. By November 2019 to January 2020, the share had decreased to 22.2% and it was the third most common reason, behind students (25.9%) and the long-term sick (25.1%).

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6. Employment in the UK data

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A05 SA | Released on 17 March 2020
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity broken down into age bands.

Full-time, part-time and temporary workers
Dataset EMP01 SA | Released on 17 March 2020
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 on 17 March 2020
Estimates for the hours that people in employment work in the UK.

Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released on 17 March 2020
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 on 17 March 2020
Estimates of those not in the UK labour force measured by the reasons given for inactivity.

Labour Force Survey sampling variability
Dataset A11 | Released on 17 March 2020
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 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 (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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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 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.

Changing the release dates of ONS statistics to avoid public holidays

Equality of access to official statistics and the access to those who produce them is a fundamental part of the Code of Practice for Statistics. To ensure that there is adequate access, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) avoids publishing statistics on England and Wales public holidays so that there is access to the those who release them on the day of release should there be any queries from the media or other users. However, Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own public holidays which differ from those for England and Wales.

To ensure equal treatment across the UK, from April 2020, we will ensure that any release that contains data for the constituent countries of the UK is not published on a day when government offices are closed in one of the countries. The ONS will involve the devolved administrations in the process of setting the relevant future release dates.

The initial impact of this policy is to move the release date of labour market statistics in July 2020 from Tuesday 14 July (when Northern Ireland government buildings are closed) to Thursday 16 July. The release date in July 2021 will also move from 13 to 15 July. This change will ensure that users across the UK have the same access to advice from the teams who produce the statistics on the day of release. An official statement has also been published detailing this change.

After EU withdrawal

As the UK leaves the EU, it is important that our statistics continue to be of high quality and are internationally comparable. During the transition period, those UK statistics that align with EU practice and rules will continue to do so in the same way as before 31 January 2020.

After the transition period, we will continue to produce our labour market statistics in line with the UK Statistics Authority’s (UKSA’s) Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) definitions and agreed international statistical guidance.

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