Labour market overview, UK: February 2024

Estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

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Cyswllt:
Email Debra Leaker

Dyddiad y datganiad:
13 February 2024

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
12 March 2024

2. Main points

This release sees the reintroduction of Labour Force Survey data, which now include the latest population information. Over the last year, growth in employment has slowed and over the same period the proportion of people economically inactive has increased, with historically high numbers of people reporting that they are long-term sick.

Payrolled employees in the UK rose by 31,000 (0.1%) between November and December 2023 and rose by 401,000 (1.3%) between December 2022 and December 2023. While the number of payrolled employees continues to increase, the rate of annual growth is decreasing.

The early estimate of payrolled employees for January 2024 increased by 48,000 (0.2%) on the month and increased by 413,000 (1.4%) on the year to 30.4 million. The January 2024 estimate should be treated as a provisional estimate and is likely to be revised when more data are received next month.

Because of increased volatility of Labour Force Survey estimates resulting from smaller achieved sample sizes, 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 estimates.

The UK employment level for those aged 16 years and over is up both on the year and on the quarter. The UK employment rate (75.0%) for those aged 16 to 64 years remains below estimates a year ago (October to December 2022), but increased in the latest quarter. The UK unemployment rate (3.8%) for those aged 16 years and over decreased in the latest quarter, returning to the rate a year ago (October to December 2022).

The UK economic inactivity rate (21.9%) for those aged 16 to 64 years was largely unchanged in the latest quarter but is above estimates a year ago (October to December 2022). The annual increase was driven by those inactive because they were long-term sick, which remains at historically high levels.

The UK claimant count for January 2024 increased by 14,100 on the month and by 61,200 on the year to 1.579 million.

In November 2023 to January 2024, the estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell by 26,000 on the quarter to 932,000. Vacancies fell on the quarter for the 19th consecutive period but are still above pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels.  The current sequence of quarterly falls in our vacancy estimates is the longest ever recorded, but has slowed in the latest period, with the smallest fall in the number of vacancies since May to July 2022.

Nominal earnings growth remains strong, although it has eased a little in recent periods. Annual growth in total earnings (including bonuses) in Great Britain was 5.8% in October to December 2023, and annual growth in employees' average regular earnings (excluding bonuses) was 6.2%.

Real pay growth continues as inflation continues to fall. Annual growth in real terms (adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH)) for total pay rose on the year by 1.4% in October to December 2023, and for regular pay rose on the year by 1.8%.

There were 108,000 working days lost in December 2023 because of labour disputes across the UK. The health and social work industry showed the most working days lost this month.

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3. Latest indicators at a glance

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4. Labour market data

Summary of labour market statistics
Dataset A01 | Released 13 February 2024
Labour market statistics summary data table, including earnings, employment, unemployment, redundancies and vacancies, Great Britain and UK, published monthly. 

Earnings and employment from Pay As You Earn Real Time Information, seasonally adjusted
Dataset | Released 13 February 2024
Earnings and employment statistics from Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) (official statistics in development), seasonally adjusted. 

A guide to labour market data
Methodology | Updated 21 April 2023
Summary of labour market datasets, providing estimates of employment, unemployment, average weekly earnings, and the number of vacancies. Tables are listed alphabetically and by topic. 

View all related data on our related data page

Alternatively, Nomis provides free access to the most detailed and up-to-date UK labour market statistics.

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5. Glossary

Average weekly earnings

Average weekly earnings, detailed in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology, measure money paid by employers to employees in Great Britain before tax and other deductions from pay. The estimates are not just a measure of pay rises, because they also reflect, for example, changes in the overall structure of the workforce.

More high-paid jobs in the economy would have an upward effect on the earnings growth rate.

Economic inactivity

People not in the labour force (also known as economically inactive in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment. This is because they have not been seeking work within the last four weeks 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. See our Guide to labour market statistics methodology for a more detailed explanation.

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 (people in work and those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed. See our Guide to labour market statistics methodology for more information.

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 Universal Credit claimants in the "searching for work" conditionality group.

Vacancies

Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking recruits from outside their business or organisation. The estimates are based on the Vacancy Survey. This is a survey of businesses designed to provide estimates of the stock of vacancies across the economy, excluding agriculture, forestry, and fishing (a small sector for which the collection of estimates would not be practical). For more information, see our Guide to labour market statistics methodology.

Pay As You Earn Real Time Information

These data come from HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC's) Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) system. They cover the whole population, rather than a sample of people or companies, and they will allow for more detailed estimates of the population. The PAYE RTI statistics are official statistics in development (previously called experimental statistics) as the methodologies used to produce the statistics are still in their development phase.

In June 2023, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) published an assessment report of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics on earnings and employment from Pay as You Earn Real Time Information (PAYE RTI). HMRC and the ONS welcome OSR's assessment report and have developed an action plan focusing on the six requirements.

A more detailed glossary is available in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology.

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6. Measuring the data

We have been facing the challenge of falling response rates for household surveys, as have other comparable countries. This issue became more acute in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) data collected for August 2023. The LFS estimates due to be published in October 2023 were suspended because of quality concerns. We developed a comprehensive plan to address these concerns and reintroduce LFS, as described in our Labour Force Survey: planned improvements and its reintroduction estimates methodology.  

As stated in our article on 5 February 2024 Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators: 2024, from 13 February we are reinstating reweighted LFS estimates into our monthly publication. These LFS estimates are official statistics in development.

Reweighting does not address the volatility we have seen in recent periods and which we expect to see to some extent in the future, so we would advise caution when interpreting short-term changes in headline 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.

Further information on response rates and other quality-related issues for the LFS can be found in our quarterly Labour Force Survey performance and quality monitoring reports

Our Comparison of labour market data sources methodology compares data sources and discusses some of the main differences. 

Coronavirus

For more information on how labour market data sources were affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see our Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics article.

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 us at labour.market@ons.gov.uk.

Labour market transformation

We have published a Labour market transformation article providing an update on the transformation of labour market statistics.

We welcome your feedback on this latest update and our plans. Please email us at labour.market. transformation@ons.gov.uk to tell us what you think.

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7. Strengths and limitations

The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty. For more information, see our Uncertainty and how we measure it methodology.

Information on revisions is available in our Labour market statistics revisions policy.

Information on the strengths and limitations of this bulletin is available in our previous bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: April 2021.

Further information is available in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology.

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9. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 13 February 2024, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: February 2024

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Debra Leaker
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 1633 455400