Employment in the UK: May 2022

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

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Cyswllt:
Email Bob Watson

Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 May 2022

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
14 June 2022

2. Main points

  • January to March 2022 estimates show a decrease in the unemployment rate, while the employment and inactivity rates increased, compared with the previous three-month period (October to December 2021).

  • Total hours worked increased compared with the previous three-month period but are still below pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels.

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.7%, 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period and 0.9 percentage points lower than before the coronavirus pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020).

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.7%, 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period, and 0.2 percentage points below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.4%, 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period, and 1.1 percentage points higher than before the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on interviews that took place from January to March 2022. Many of the government lockdown restrictions had eased prior to this period, including the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

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 was introduced in July 2021. 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.

We plan to reweight Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS) datasets that include data from March 2020 using RTI data. We intend to release the initial reweighted LFS estimates in the June Labour Market publication. On 23 May we plan to publish an article with indicative estimates of the impact and a more detailed reweighting timeline.

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4. Summary

Figure 1: January to March 2022 estimates show an increase in employment and economic inactivity rates compared with the previous three-month period, while the unemployment rate decreased

UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between January to March 2007 and January to March 2022

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The increase in the employment rate was driven by the movement of people aged 16 to 64 years from unemployment to employment (Figure 2). However, there was also a record-high movement of people from economic inactivity into employment. Total job-to-job moves also increased to a record high of 994,000, driven by resignations rather than dismissals, during the January to March 2022 period.

Figure 2: There were net flows into employment from unemployment and economic inactivity

UK flows between employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity, people aged 16 to 64 years, (seasonally adjusted) between October to December 2021 and January to March 2022

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During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there was a decrease in the employment rate and increases in the economic inactivity and unemployment rates for both men and women (Figure 3).

During the latest three-month period (January to March 2022), the employment rate for women and men increased. The decrease in the unemployment rate was driven by both men and women and the increase in economic inactivity rate was driven by women.

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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 in December 2019 to February 2020. However, there has been an increase since the end of 2020.

The number of part-time employees increased during the latest three-month period; however, this was partially offset by a decrease in full-time employees. Since April to June 2021 part-time employees have been showing a recovery from the large falls during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of self-employed workers also fell during the pandemic and has remained low, although they have increased during the latest three-month period (Figure 4).

Hours worked

Total actual weekly hours worked in the UK have been increasing since the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures, despite increased coronavirus infections during the period. Compared with the previous three-month period, total actual weekly hours worked increased by 14.8 million hours to 1.04 billion hours in January to March 2022 (Figure 5). However, this is still 10.7 million below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels (December 2019 to February 2020). After falling during the pandemic, the average actually weekly hours worked are similar to averages before the pandemic, with the average hours worked by part-time workers at a record high (16.8 hours per week). Consequently the shortfall in total hours is down to the reduced numbers in employment.

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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 increased since then but has now returned to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

Those unemployed for up to six months decreased during the latest period and remain low. Those unemployed for between 6 and 12 months also decreased to a record low. Meanwhile, those unemployed for over 12 months continued to decrease from the peak in July to September 2021 (Figure 6).

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7. Economic inactivity

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

During the coronavirus pandemic, increases in economic inactivity compared with the previous three-month period were largely driven by those aged 16 to 24 years. However, the number of economically inactive people aged 16 to 24 years has been decreasing since early 2021, with those aged 50 to 64 years driving the recent increases in economic inactivity (Figure 7). More detail is available in Movements out of work for those aged over 50 years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic published on 14 March.

The increase in economic inactivity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020) was largely driven by those who were students or who were economically inactive for "other" reasons (Figure 8). The increase in economic inactivity in the latest three-month period was driven by those who were economically inactive because they were looking after family or home, students, or temporarily sick.

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8. Redundancies

In January to March 2022, reports of redundancies in the three months prior to interview decreased by 0.1 per thousand employees, compared with the previous three-month period, to 2.5 per thousand employees (Figure 9).

We are now also publishing a table 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
Dataset A05 SA | Released 17 May 2022
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 May 2022
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 May 2022
Estimates for the hours that people in employment work in the UK.

Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 17 May 2022
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 May 2022
Estimates of those not in the UK labour force measured by the reasons given for economic inactivity.

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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.

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 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.

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.

Reweighting

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. Our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators, UK: 2020 article explains the reweighting methodology, which gives improved estimates of both rates and levels.

When the recent weighting methodology for LFS was applied, there was a small error in the calculation of the growth rates used. The impact on LFS economic activity estimates at national level is mostly below 0.1%, and the impact on rates is less than 0.02 percentage points.

We plan to reweight Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS) datasets that include data from March 2020 using RTI data. We intend to release the initial reweighted LFS estimates in the June Labour Market publication. On 23 May we plan to publish an article with indicative estimates of the impact and a more detailed reweighting timeline

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

View more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

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.

Consultation on release practices

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has finalised its consultation on release practices. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has welcomed the findings in a statement on the ONS's response to the OSR's proposals, specifically noting that the release-time exemptions, which were granted during the pandemic, are now incorporated into the revised Code of Practice. As such, the monthly Labour Market bulletin will continue to be published at 7am.

Labour market statistics user engagement

Over the last few years, the ONS has been developing a transformed version of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) using an online-first multimode collection approach. With recent developments, including the addition of the ability to respond by telephone, the ONS is now in a position to begin moving towards incorporating the transformed LFS data into the regular labour market data releases.

We understand these changes may have an impact on some of our users and we are carrying out a survey, which closes 29 June 2022, to better understand those impacts.

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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 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 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 compares the latest workforce jobs series estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the LFS. It is usually published every March but 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