1. Main points for the 3 months to January 2016

There were 31.42 million people in work, 116,000 more than for August to October 2015 and 478,000 more than for a year earlier.

There were 22.94 million people working full-time, 302,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.48 million people working part-time, 177,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.1%, the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.

There were 1.68 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 28,000 fewer than for August to October 2015 and 171,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

There were 923,000 unemployed men, 102,000 fewer than for a year earlier. There were 762,000 unemployed women, 69,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The unemployment rate was 5.1%, lower than for a year earlier (5.7%). The unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour force (those in work plus those unemployed) that were unemployed.

There were 8.89 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (not working and not seeking or available to work), 40,000 fewer than for August to October 2015 and 136,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive) was 21.8%, lower than for a year earlier (22.2%) and only slightly higher than the record low of 21.7% last recorded for July to September 1990.

Average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.1% including bonuses and by 2.2% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.

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2. Summary of latest labour market statistics

Table 1 and Figure 1 show the latest estimates, for the 3 months to January 2016, for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity and shows how these estimates compare with the previous quarter (August to October 2015) and the previous year (the 3 months to January 2015). Comparing the 3 months to January 2016 with August to October 2015 provides the most robust short-term comparison. See Making comparisons with earlier data at Section 3 for more information.

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3. Understanding and working with labour market statistics

Where to find explanatory information

Interpreting labour market statistics, available on our website, is designed to help you interpret labour market statistics and highlights some common misunderstandings.

A more detailed Guide to labour market statistics is also available.

A Glossary which explains the terms used within labour market statistics is also available.

About labour market statuses

Everybody aged 16 or over is either employed, unemployed or economically inactive. The employment estimates include all people in work including those working part-time. People not working are classed as unemployed if they have been looking for work within the last 4 weeks and are able to start work within the next 2 weeks. A common misconception is that the unemployment statistics are a count of people on benefits; this is not the case as they include unemployed people not claiming benefits.

Jobless people who have not been looking for work within the last 4 weeks or who are unable to start work within the next 2 weeks are classed as economically inactive. Examples of economically inactive people include people not looking for work because they are students, looking after the family or home, because of illness or disability or because they have retired.

Explaining the concepts of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity is available from the National Archives website as a short video.

Making comparisons with earlier data derived from the Labour Force Survey

Estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity, hours worked and redundancies are derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a survey of households. The most robust estimates of short-term movements in these estimates are obtained by comparing the estimates for the 3 months to January 2016 with the estimates for August to October 2015, which were first published on 16 December 2015. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for October to December 2015. This is because the November and December data are included within both estimates, so effectively observed differences are those between the individual months of October 2015 and January 2016. The LFS is sampled such that it is representative of the UK population over a 3 month period, not for single month periods.

Accuracy and reliability of survey estimates

Most of the figures in this statistical bulletin come from surveys of households or businesses and are therefore estimates rather than precise figures. Further information is available at Section 20 of this statistical bulletin.

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4. Employment

Introduction

Employment measures the number of people in work and differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job. Further information is available at Notes for Employment at the end of this section.

A comparison between estimates of employment and jobs is available on our website.

Commentary

The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 in work is known as the employment rate. Figure 2 shows the employment rate for people aged from 16 to 64 since comparable records began in 1971. The lowest employment rate was 65.6% in 1983, during the economic downturn of the early 1980s. The employment rate has been generally increasing since early 2012 and for the latest time period, the 3 months to January 2016, it reached a joint record high of 74.1%.

Figure 3 looks in more detail at the employment rate for the last 5 years.

For the 3 months to January 2016, 74.1% of people aged from 16 to 64 were in work. This was:

  • higher than for August to October 2015 (73.9%)
  • higher than for a year earlier (73.3%)
  • the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971

Looking at employment rates by sex, for the 3 months to January 2016:

  • 79.2% of men and 69.1% of women aged from 16 to 64 were in work
  • employment rates for both men and women were higher than for August to October 2015 and for a year earlier
  • the employment rate for men (79.2%) was slightly higher than before the economic downturn of 2008 to 2009, when it peaked at 79.1% in late 2007 to early 2008
  • the employment rate for women (69.1%) was the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971, partly due to ongoing changes to the state pension age for women resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65

For the 3 months to January 2016, there were 31.42 million people in work, 116,000 more than for August to October 2015 and 478,000 more than for a year earlier.

Figure 4 shows how the estimates for full-time and part-time employment by sex for the 3 months to January 2016 compare with those for a year earlier.

Comparing the estimates for type of employment for the 3 months to January 2016 with those for a year earlier:

  • employees increased by 399,000 to 26.59 million
  • self-employed people increased by 106,000 to 4.63 million
  • unpaid family workers fell by 17,000 to 97,000 (see Note 2 for an explanation of the coverage of this series)
  • people on government supported training and employment programmes fell by 9,000 to 97,000 (see Note 3 for an explanation of the coverage of this series)

Where to find data about employment

Employment estimates are available at Tables 1 and 3 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables A02 SA and EMP01 SA.

International comparisons of employment rates are available at Table 19 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table A10.

Estimates for the number of people in employment and for the number of self-employed people back to 1855 (which do not have National Statistics status) have been published by the Bank of England in the spreadsheet Three centuries of data v2.2 (at columns H and N in worksheet 22).

Notes for Employment

  1. Employment consists of employees, self-employed people, unpaid family workers and people on government supported training and employment programmes.
  2. Unpaid family workers are people who work in a family business who do not receive a formal wage or salary but benefit from the profits of that business.
  3. The government supported training and employment programmes series does not include all people on these programmes; it only includes people engaging in any form of work, work experience or work-related training who are not included in the employees or self-employed series. People on these programmes NOT engaging in any form of work, work experience or work-related training are not included in the employment estimates; they are classified as unemployed or economically inactive.
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5. Public and private sector employment

Introduction

Public sector employment measures the number of people in paid work in the public sector. The public sector comprises central government, local government and public corporations. Estimates of public sector employment are obtained from information provided by public sector organisations.

Private sector employment is estimated as the difference between total employment, sourced from the Labour Force Survey, and public sector employment.

Comparisons of public and private sector employment over time are impacted by changes to the composition of these sectors. For example, if a publicly owned body is privatised, public sector employment will fall and private sector employment will increase by an equivalent amount. This is known as a reclassification effect. At Table 4 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table EMP02 we therefore publish estimates of public and private sector employment excluding the effects of major, but not all, reclassifications alongside estimates of total public and private sector employment.

Commentary

There were 5.35 million people employed in the public sector for December 2015. This was:

  • little changed compared with September 2015

  • down 50,000 from a year earlier

The number of people employed in the public sector has been generally falling since March 2010.

There were 26.07 million people employed in the private sector for December 2015. This was 113,000 more than for September 2015 and 529,000 more than for a year earlier.

For December 2015, 17.0% of people in employment worked in the public sector (the lowest proportion since comparable records began in 1999) and the remaining 83.0% worked in the private sector.

Figure 5 shows public sector employment as a percentage of all people in employment for the last 5 years.

Comparisons of public and private sector employment over time are complicated by several large employers moving between the public and private sectors. We therefore publish estimates of public and private sector employment excluding the effects of major reclassifications alongside estimates of total public and private sector employment at Table 4 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table EMP02.

Where to find data about public and private sector employment

Public and private sector employment estimates are available at Tables 4 and 4(1) of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables EMP02 and EMP03.

Further information on public sector employment is available in the Public sector employment release.

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6. Employment by nationality and country of birth, not seasonally adjusted (first published on 17 February 2016)

Introduction

The estimates of employment by both nationality and country of birth relate to the number of people in employment rather than the number of jobs. Changes in the series therefore show net changes in the number of people in employment, not the proportion of new jobs that have been filled by UK and non-UK workers. These estimates should not be used as a proxy for flows of foreign migrants into the UK.

The estimates are not seasonally adjusted and it is therefore best practice to compare the estimates for October to December 2015 with those for a year earlier rather than with those for July to September 2015.

Commentary

Looking at the estimates by nationality, between October to December 2014 and October to December 2015:

  • UK nationals working in the UK increased by 278,000 to 28.28 million
  • non-UK nationals working in the UK increased by 254,000 to 3.22 million

Looking at changes in non-UK nationals working in the UK between October to December 1997 and October to December 2015:

  • the number of non-UK nationals working in the UK increased from just over 1 million to 3.22 million
  • the proportion of all people working in the UK accounted for by non-UK nationals increased from 3.8% to 10.2%
  • this increase in non-UK nationals working in the UK reflects the admission of several new member states to the European Union (EU)

Looking in more detail at non-UK nationals working in the UK, between October to December 2014 and October to December 2015:

  • non-UK nationals from the EU working in the UK increased by 215,000 to 2.04 million
  • non-UK nationals from outside the EU working in the UK increased by 38,000 to 1.18 million

Figure 6 shows the number of non-UK nationals from EU and non-EU countries working in the UK from October to December 1997 to October to December 2015.

As shown in Figure 6, since January to March 2009, the number of non-UK nationals from outside the EU working in the UK has been broadly flat but the number of non-UK nationals from EU countries working in the UK has continued to increase.

For October to December 2015, there were 5.06 million people born abroad working in the UK, but the number of non-UK nationals working in the UK was much lower at 3.22 million. This is because the estimates for people born abroad working in the UK include some UK nationals.

Looking at the estimates by country of birth, between October to December 2014 and October to December 2015:

  • UK born people working in the UK increased by 258,000 to 26.42 million
  • non-UK born people working in the UK increased by 281,000 to 5.06 million

Where to find data about employment by nationality and country of birth

Estimates of employment by nationality and country of birth are available at Table 8 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table EMP06.

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7. Actual hours worked

Introduction

Actual hours worked measures the number of hours worked in the economy. Changes in actual hours worked reflect changes in the number of people in employment and the average hours worked by those people.

Commentary

Total hours worked per week were 1.01 billion for the 3 months to January 2016. This was:

  • 10.3 million (1.0%) more than for August to October 2015
  • 13.6 million (1.4%) more than for a year earlier

The increase in hours worked per week between August to October 2015 and the 3 months to January 2016 reflected an increase of 116,000 in the number of people in work (as explained at Section 4) as well as an increase in average hours worked per week.

For the 3 months to January 2016:

  • people worked, on average, 32.2 hours per week, 0.2 hours more than for August to October 2015 but little changed compared with a year earlier
  • people working full-time worked, on average, 37.5 hours per week in their main job, 0.3 hours more than for August to October 2015 but little changed compared with a year earlier
  • people working part-time worked, on average, 16.4 hours per week in their main job, 0.2 hours more than for August to October 2015 and 0.3 hours more than for a year earlier

Figure 7 shows total hours worked and the number of people in work, as indices, for the last 5 years.

Where to find data about hours worked

Hours worked estimates are available at Tables 7 and 7(1) of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables HOUR01 SA and HOUR02 SA.

Estimates for average weekly hours worked back to 1855 (which do not have National Statistics status) have been published by the Bank of England in the spreadsheet Three centuries of data v2.2 (at column Q in worksheet 22).

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8. Workforce jobs

Introduction

Workforce jobs measures the number of filled jobs in the economy. The estimates are mainly sourced from employer surveys. Workforce jobs is a different concept from employment, which is sourced from the Labour Force Survey, as employment is an estimate of people and some people have more than one job.

A comparison between estimates of employment and jobs is available on our website.

Commentary

For December 2015 there were 33.78 million workforce jobs, 69,000 more than for September 2015 and 370,000 more than for a year earlier. Figure 8 shows changes in the number of jobs by industrial sector between December 2014 and December 2015.

Looking at a longer term comparison, between June 1978 (when comparable records began) and December 2015:

  • the proportion of jobs accounted for by the manufacturing and mining and quarrying sectors fell from 26.4% to 8.1%

  • the proportion of jobs accounted for by the services sector increased from 63.2% to 83.1%

While comparable estimates for workforce jobs by industry begin in 1978, some historical information back to 1841, not comparable with the latest estimates, are available from 2011 Census Analysis, 170 years of industry.

Where to find data about workforce jobs

Jobs estimates are available at Tables 5 and 6 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables JOBS01 and JOBS02.

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9. Average weekly earnings

Introduction

Average Weekly Earnings measures money paid to employees in Great Britain in return for work done, before tax and other deductions from pay. The estimates do not include earnings of self- employed people. Estimates are available for both total pay (which includes bonuses) and for regular pay (which excludes bonus payments). Estimates are available in both nominal terms (not adjusted for consumer price inflation) and real terms (adjusted for consumer price inflation). The estimates are not just a measure of pay settlements as they also reflect compositional changes within the workforce. Further information is available at Notes for Earnings at the end of this section.

Commentary

For January 2016 in nominal terms (that is, not adjusted for price inflation):

  • average regular pay (excluding bonuses) for employees in Great Britain was £467 per week before tax and other deductions from pay, up from £457 per week for a year earlier

  • average total pay (including bonuses) for employees in Great Britain was £497 per week before tax and other deductions from pay, up from £485 per week for a year earlier

Between the 3 months to January 2015 and the 3 months to January 2016, in nominal terms, regular pay increased by 2.2%, higher than the growth rate between October to December 2014 and October to December 2015 (2.0%).

Between the 3 months to January 2015 and the 3 months to January 2016, in nominal terms, total pay increased by 2.1%, higher than the growth rate between October to December 2014 and October to December 2015 (1.9%).

Figure 9 compares the annual growth rates for both regular and total pay, in nominal terms, for the last 5 years.

Looking at longer term movements, since comparable records began in 2000 average total pay for employees in Great Britain in nominal terms increased from £311 a week in January 2000 to £497 a week in January 2016; an increase of 59.7%. Over the same period the Consumer Prices Index increased by 38.4%.

Between the 3 months to January 2015 and the 3 months to January 2016 in real terms (that is, adjusted for consumer price inflation):

  • regular pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.0%

  • total pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.0%

A more detailed analysis of earnings growth in real terms is available at Supplementary Analysis of Average Weekly Earnings.

Where to find data about average weekly earnings

Estimates of average weekly earnings in nominal terms (that is, not adjusted for consumer price inflation) are available at Tables 15, 16 and 17 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables EARN01, EARN02 and EARN03.

Estimates of average weekly earnings in real terms (that is, adjusted for consumer price inflation) are available at Table 18 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at data table X04.

While comparable records for average weekly earnings start in 2000, modelled estimates back to 1963 (which do not have National Statistics status) are available at data table EARN02.

Estimates back to 1750 (which do not have National Statistics status) have been published by the Bank of England in the spreadsheet Three centuries of data v2.2 (at column G in worksheet 21).

Where to find more information about earnings

A supplementary analysis of Average Weekly Earnings which includes estimates of real earnings (that is, adjusted for consumer price inflation) is available on our website.

An article looking at bonus payments was published on 26 August 2015.

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), published on 18 November 2015, provides more detailed data for 2015.

Notes for Average Weekly Earnings

  1. The estimates relate to Great Britain and include salaries but not unearned income, benefits in kind or arrears of pay.
  2. As well as pay settlements, the estimates reflect bonuses, changes in the number of paid hours worked and the impact of employees paid at different rates joining and leaving individual businesses. The estimates also reflect changes in the overall structure of the workforce; for example, more low paid jobs in the economy would have a downward effect on the earnings growth rate.
  3. Lloyds Banking Group plc is reclassified to the private sector from April 2014 following the sale of some government owned shares to private sector investors. It is classified to the public sector between July 2009 and March 2014. We estimate that, if the April 2014 reclassification had not occurred, the public sector single month growth rates between April 2014 and March 2015 would have been around 0.3 percentage points higher and the corresponding private sector growth rates would have been around 0.1 percentage points lower.
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10. Labour disputes (not seasonally adjusted)

Introduction

Labour disputes estimates measure strikes connected with terms and conditions of employment.

Commentary

In January 2016, there were 20,000 working days lost from 9 stoppages. Most of the working days lost in January 2016 were due to a 1 day strike by junior doctors in the National Health Service in England. For the 12 months ending January 2016, there were 167,000 working days lost from 113 stoppages.

Since monthly records began in December 1931:

  • the highest cumulative 12 month estimate for working days lost was 32.2 million for the 12 months to April 1980

  • the lowest cumulative 12 month estimate for working days lost was 143,000 for the 12 months to March 2011

Working days lost are at historically low levels when looking at the longer run time series back to the 1930s, available at data table LABD01.

Figure 10 shows cumulative 12 month totals for working days lost for the last 5 years.

Where to find data about labour disputes

Labour disputes estimates are available at Table 20 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table LABD01.

Where to find more information about labour disputes

An article providing more detailed information was published on 16 July 2015.

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11. Unemployment

Introduction

Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last 4 weeks and are available to start work within the next 2 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. This follows guidelines specified by the International Labour Organisation and it ensures that UK unemployment rates are broadly comparable with those published by other countries.

Commentary

The proportion of economically active people aged 16 and over who are out of work and seeking work is known as the unemployment rate. As shown at Figure 11, the lowest unemployment rate recorded since comparable records began in 1971 was 3.4% in late 1973 to early 1974 and the highest rate, 11.9%, was recorded in 1984 during the downturn of the early 1980s. The unemployment rate for the latest time period, the 3 months to January 2016, was 5.1%.

Figure 12 looks in more detail at the unemployment rate for the last 5 years.

The unemployment rate for those aged 16 and over for the 3 months to January 2016 was 5.1%. This was:

  • down slightly from August to October 2015 (5.2%)
  • down from a year earlier (5.7%)
  • slightly lower than the pre-downturn trough of 5.2% for late 2007 to early 2008

The last time the unemployment rate was lower than 5.1% was for August to October 2005. For the 3 months to January 2016, there were:

  • 1.68 million unemployed people, 28,000 fewer than for August to October 2015 and 171,000 fewer than for a year earlier
  • 923,000 unemployed men, 16,000 fewer than for August to October 2015 and 102,000 fewer than for a year earlier
  • 762,000 unemployed women, 12,000 fewer than for August to October 2015 and 69,000 fewer than for a year earlier

Looking at unemployment by how long people have been out of work and seeking work, for the 3 months to January 2016 there were:

  • 948,000 people who had been unemployed for up to 6 months, little changed compared with a year earlier
  • 257,000 people who had been unemployed for between 6 and 12 months, 25,000 fewer than for a year earlier
  • 480,000 people who had been unemployed for over 12 months, 149,000 fewer than for a year earlier

Where to find data about unemployment

Unemployment estimates for the UK are available at Table 9 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table UNEM01 SA.

Estimates for the unemployment level and rate back to 1870 (which do not have National Statistics status) have been published by the Bank of England in the spreadsheet Three centuries of data v2.2 (at columns P and U in worksheet 22).

International comparisons of unemployment rates are available at Table 19 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at data table A10.

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12. Claimant Count (experimental statistics)

Introduction

The Claimant Count measures the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits:

  • between January 1971 (when comparable estimates start) and September 1996 it is an estimate of the number of people who would have claimed unemployment related benefits if Jobseeker's Allowance had existed at that time

  • between October 1996 and April 2013 the Claimant Count is a count of the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • from May 2013 the Claimant Count includes all out of work Universal Credit claimants as well as all JSA claimants

Ideally only those Universal Credit claimants who are out of work and required to seek work should be included in the Claimant Count but it is not currently possible to produce estimates on this basis. The Claimant Count therefore currently includes some out of work claimants of Universal Credit who are not required to look for work; for example, due to illness or disability.

The Claimant Count estimates are currently designated as experimental statistics because the Universal Credit estimates are still being developed by the Department for Work and Pensions. However the Claimant Count estimates do provide the best available estimates of the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits in the UK.

The Claimant Count includes people who claim unemployment related benefits but who do not receive payment. For example some claimants will have had their benefits stopped for a limited period of time by Jobcentre Plus. Some people claim JSA in order to receive National Insurance Credits.

Commentary

Figure 13 shows the Claimant Count since comparable records began in 1971. It shows that the lowest number of people claiming unemployment related benefits was 422,600 in December 1973 and the highest figure was 3.09 million in July 1986. For the latest month, February 2016, there were 716,700 people claiming unemployment related benefits, the lowest since April 1975.

Looking in more detail at the most recent 5 years, Figure 14 shows the Claimant Count from February 2011 to February 2016.

For February 2016 there were 716,700 people claiming unemployment related benefits. This consisted of:

  • 605,400 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • 111,300 people who were out of work and claiming Universal Credit

For February 2016 there were 716,700 people claiming unemployment related benefits. This was:

  • 18,000 fewer than for January 2016

  • 102,500 fewer than for a year earlier

  • the lowest since April 1975

For February 2016 there were:

  • 452,300 men claiming unemployment related benefits, 12,900 fewer than for January 2016 and 70,000 fewer than for a year earlier

  • 264,400 women claiming unemployment related benefits, 5,100 fewer than for January 2016 and 32,500 fewer than for a year earlier

Where to find data about the Claimant Count

Claimant Count estimates are available at Table 10 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table CLA01.

While comparable records start in 1971, some data back to 1881 (which do not have National Statistics status) are available from the “Historic Data” worksheet within dataset table CLA01.

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13. Comparison between unemployment and the Claimant Count

Unemployment is measured according to internationally accepted guidelines specified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Unemployed people in the UK are:

  • without a job, have actively sought work in the last 4 weeks and are available to start work in the next 2 weeks

  • out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next 2 weeks

People who meet these criteria are classified as unemployed irrespective of whether or not they claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or other benefits. The estimates are derived from the Labour Force Survey and are published for 3 month average time periods.

The Claimant Count measures the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits. As explained at Section 12 of this statistical bulletin, the Claimant Count estimates are designated as experimental statistics. In this section of the bulletin we compare quarterly movements in unemployment with quarterly movements in the Claimant Count. Some claimants will not be classified as unemployed. For example, people in employment working fewer than 16 hours a week can be eligible to claim JSA depending on their income.

Figure 15 and dataset table X05 compare quarterly movements in unemployment and the Claimant Count for the same 3 month average time periods. The unemployment estimates shown in this comparison exclude unemployed people aged between 16 to 17 and 65 and over as well as unemployed people aged from 18 to 24 in full-time education. This provides a more meaningful comparison with the Claimant Count than total unemployment because people in these population groups are not usually eligible to claim unemployment related benefits.

When 3 month average estimates for the Claimant Count are compared with unemployment estimates for the same time periods and for the same population groups (people aged from 18 to 64 excluding 18 to 24 year olds in full-time education), between August to October 2015 and the 3 months to January 2016:

  • unemployment fell by 38,000

  • the Claimant Count fell by 25,000

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14. Economic inactivity

Introduction

Economically inactive people are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment because they have not been seeking work within the last 4 weeks and/or they are unable to start work within the next 2 weeks.

Commentary

The proportion of people, aged from 16 to 64, not in work and neither seeking nor available to work is known as the economic inactivity rate. Figure 16 shows the economic inactivity rate for people aged from 16 to 64 since comparable records began in 1971.

Figure 16 shows that the economic inactivity rate increased during the downturn of the early 1980s reaching a record high of 25.9% in 1983. As the economy improved in the late 1980s, the economic inactivity rate resumed its downward path, reaching a record low of 21.7% in late 1989 and 1990, before the economic downturn of the early 1990s drove it back up again. Following an increase in the economic inactivity rate during the economic downturn of 2008 to 2009, it resumed its generally downward path.

Figure 17 shows the economic inactivity rate for people for the last 5 years.

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate for men has been gradually rising while the rate for women has been gradually falling.

The economic inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the 3 months to January 2016 was 21.8%. This was lower than for a year earlier (22.2%) and only slightly higher than the record low of 21.7% last recorded for July to September 1990.

For the 3 months to January 2016, there were 8.89 million people aged from 16 to 64 not in work and neither seeking nor available to work (known as economically inactive). This was:

  • 40,000 fewer than for August to October 2015
  • 136,000 fewer than for a year earlier

Looking in more detail at the 8.89 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive for the 3 months to January 2016, the 2 largest categories were students and people looking after the family or home (each of which accounted for just over a quarter of the total):

  • there were 2.23 million people who were not looking for work because they were studying, 93,000 fewer than for a year earlier
  • there were 2.26 million people (of which 2.01 million were women) who were not looking for work because they were looking after the family or home, 52,000 fewer than for a year earlier

The third and fourth largest categories were long-term sick (23.4% of the total) and retired (13.1% of the total):

  • there were 2.08 million people who were not looking for work due to long-term sickness, 70,000 more than for a year earlier
  • there were 1.17 million people who were not looking for work because they had retired, 112,000 fewer than for a year earlier

As shown in Figure 18, which shows the 4 largest categories of economic inactivity for the last 5 years, the number of people younger than 65 in the retired category has been generally falling since late 2011. This is largely due to ongoing changes to the state pension age for women resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

Where to find data on economic inactivity

Economic inactivity estimates are available at Tables 1 and 13 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables A02 SA and INAC01 SA.

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15. Young people in the labour market

Introduction

This section looks at people aged from 16 to 24. It is a common misconception that all people in full- time education are classified as economically inactive. This is not the case as people in full-time education are included in the employment estimates if they have a part-time job and are included in the unemployment estimates if they are seeking part-time work.

Commentary

For the 3 months to January 2016, for people aged from 16 to 24, there were:

  • 3.96 million people in work (including 983,000 full-time students with part-time jobs)
  • 630,000 unemployed people (including 217,000 full-time students looking for part-time work)
  • 2.62 million economically inactive people, most of whom (2.00 million) were full-time students

Figure 20 shows how the latest estimates, for the 3 months to January 2016, for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for people aged from 16 to 24 compare with the previous quarter (August to October 2015) and the previous year (the 3 months to January 2015).

For the 3 months to January 2016, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds was 13.7%, slightly lower than the pre-downturn trough of 13.8% for the 3 months ending February 2008.

The unemployment rate for those aged from 16 to 24 has been consistently higher than that for older age groups. Since comparable records began in 1992:

  • the lowest youth unemployment rate was 11.6% for March to May 2001
  • the highest youth unemployment rate was 22.5% for late 2011

Between March to May 1992 (when comparable records began) and the 3 months to January 2016 the proportion of young people who were in full-time education increased substantially from 26.2% to 44.5%. This increase in the number of young people going into full-time education has reduced the size of the economically active population (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) and therefore increased the unemployment rate (because the unemployment rate is the proportion of the economically active population who are unemployed).

Where to find data on young people in the labour market

Estimates for young people in the labour market are available at Table 14 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table A06 SA.

Where to find more information about young people in the labour market

Estimates for young people who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) for October to December 2015 were published on 25 February 2016.

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16. Redundancies

Introduction

The redundancies estimates measure the number of people who have been made redundant or have taken voluntary redundancy.

Commentary

For the 3 months to January 2016, 111,000 people had become redundant in the 3 months before the Labour Force Survey interviews. This was little changed compared with August to October 2015 and with a year earlier.

Where to find data on redundancies

Redundancies estimates are available at Tables 23 and 24 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables RED01 SA and RED02.

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17. Vacancies

Introduction

Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking to recruit outside their business or organisation.

Commentary

There were 768,000 job vacancies for the 3 months to February 2016. This was:

  • 10,000 more than for September to November 2015

  • 26,000 more than for a year earlier

Figure 22 shows the number of job vacancies since comparable records began in 2001.

Where to find data about vacancies

Vacancies estimates are available at Tables 21, 21(1) and 22 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset tables VACS01, VACS02 and VACS03.

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18. Main out of work benefits, not seasonally adjusted (first published on 17 February 2016)

Introduction

Main out of work benefits includes claimants of unemployment related benefits and Employment and Support Allowance and other incapacity benefits. It also includes claimants of Income Support and Pension Credit. While most people claiming these benefits are out of work a small number are in employment. These estimates exclude claimants in Northern Ireland.

The estimates are not seasonally adjusted and it is therefore best practice to compare the estimates for August 2015 with those for a year earlier rather than with those for May 2015.

Commentary

For August 2015 there were 3.79 million people claiming main out of work benefits. This was:

  • 229,700 fewer than for a year earlier
  • the lowest since comparable records began in 1999

For August 2015, 9.5% of the population aged from 16 to 64 were claiming main out of work benefits. This was:

  • down from 10.1% for a year earlier
  • the lowest since comparable records began in 1999

Figure 23 shows, for the last 5 years, the proportion of the population aged from 16 to 64 claiming main out of work benefits.

Where to find data about main out of work benefits

Estimates of claimants of main out of work benefits are available at Table 11 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at dataset table BEN01.

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19. Revisions

Estimates for the most recent time periods are subject to revision due to the receipt of late and corrected responses to business surveys and revisions to seasonal adjustment factors which are re- estimated every month. Estimates are subject to longer run revisions, on an annual basis, resulting from reviews of the seasonal adjustment process. Estimates derived from the Labour Force Survey (a survey of households) are usually only revised once a year. Revisions to estimates derived from other sources are usually minor and are commented on in the statistical bulletin if this is not the case. Further information is available in the labour market statistics revisions policy.

One indication of the reliability of the main indicators in this statistical bulletin can be obtained by monitoring the size of revisions. Dataset tables EMP05, UNEM04, JOBS06 and CLA03 record the size and pattern of revisions over the last five years. These indicators only report summary measures for revisions. The revised data itself may be subject to sampling or other sources of error. Our standard presentation is to show 5 years worth of revisions (60 observations for a monthly series, 20 for a quarterly series).

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20. Accuracy of the statistics: estimating and reporting uncertainty

Most of the figures in this statistical bulletin come from surveys of households or businesses. Surveys gather information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed to allow for this, and to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints, but results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This means that they are subject to some uncertainty. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.

We can calculate the level of uncertainty (also called “sampling variability”) around a survey estimate by exploring how that estimate would change if we were to draw many survey samples for the same time period instead of just one. This allows us to define a range around the estimate (known as a “confidence interval”) and to state how likely it is in practice that the real value that the survey is trying to measure lies within that range. Confidence intervals are typically set up so that we can be 95% sure that the true value lies within the range – in which case we refer to a “95% confidence interval”.

For example, the unemployment rate for the 3 months to January 2016 was estimated to be 5.1%. This figure had a stated 95% confidence interval of +/- 0.2 percentage points. This means that we can be 95% certain that the true unemployment rate for the 3 months to January 2016 was between 4.9% and 5.3%. However, the best estimate from the survey was that the unemployment rate was 5.1%.

The number of people unemployed for the same period was estimated at 1,685,000, with a stated 95% confidence interval of +/- 72,000. This means that we can be 95% sure that the true number of unemployed people was between 1,613,000 and 1,757,000. Again, the best estimate from the survey was that the number of unemployed people was 1,685,000.

As well as calculating precision measures around the numbers and rates obtained from the survey, we can also calculate them for changes in the numbers. For example, for the 3 months to January 2016, the estimated change in the number of unemployed people since August to October 2015 was a fall of 28,000, with a 95% confidence interval of +/- 79,000. This means that we can be 95% certain the actual change in unemployment was somewhere between an increase of 51,000 and a fall of 107,000, with the best estimate being a fall of 28,000. As the estimated fall in unemployment of 28,000 is smaller than the confidence interval of 79,000, the estimated fall in unemployment is said to be “not statistically significant”.

Working with uncertain estimates

In general, changes in the numbers (and especially the rates) reported in this statistical bulletin between 3 month periods are small, and are not usually greater than the level that is explainable by sampling variability. In practice, this means that small, short-term movements in reported rates (for example within +/- 0.3 percentage points) should be treated as indicative, and considered alongside medium and long-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in administrative sources, where available, to give a fuller picture.

Seasonal adjustment and uncertainty

Like many economic indicators, the labour market is affected by factors that tend to occur at around the same time every year; for example school leavers entering the labour market in July and whether Easter falls in March or April. In order to compare movements other than annual changes in labour market statistics, such as since the previous quarter or since the previous month, the data are seasonally adjusted to remove the effects of seasonal factors and the arrangement of the calendar. All estimates discussed in this statistical bulletin are seasonally adjusted except where otherwise stated. While seasonal adjustment is essential to allow for robust comparisons through time, it is not possible to estimate uncertainty measures for the seasonally adjusted series.

Where to find data about uncertainty and reliability

Dataset table A11 shows sampling variabilities for estimates derived from the Labour Force Survey.

Dataset table JOBS07 shows sampling variabilities for estimates of workforce jobs.

The sampling variability of the 3 month average vacancies level is around +/- 1.5% of that level.

Sampling variability information for Average Weekly Earnings growth rates are available from the “Sampling Variability” worksheets within data tables EARN01 and EARN03.

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21 .Background notes

  1. This month's release

    There have been revisions to the Claimant Count back to 2013 resulting from improved estimates of out of work Universal Credit claimants from the Department for Work and Pensions. The Claimant Count estimates continue to be designated as experimental statistics (see Background Note 3).

  2. Next month’s release

    There will be revisions to estimates of vacancies back to the start of the time series in 2001 resulting from the annual review of the seasonal adjustment process and from taking on board late and corrected information from contributors to the Vacancy Survey.

  3. Experimental Statistics: Claimant Count estimates

    Experimental statistics are not yet fully developed. Estimates of the Claimant Count, published at Table 10 of the pdf version of this statistical bulletin and at data table CLA01, are the only series in this statistical bulletin designated as experimental statistics.

    The Claimant Count estimates have been designated as experimental statistics since June 2015 because they include estimates of Universal Credit which are still being developed by the Department for Work and Pensions. An article on our website explains the changes made to the Claimant Count in the June 2015 edition of this statistical bulletin.

  4. Publication policy

    Publication dates up to the end of 2016 are:

    20 April 2016

    18 May 2016

    15 June 2016

    20 July 2016

    17 August 2016

    14 September 2016

    19 October 2016

    16 November 2016

    14 December 2016

    A list of the job titles of those given pre-release access to the contents of this statistical bulletin is available on our website.

  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting the UK Statistics Authority website or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs
    • are well explained and readily accessible
    • are produced according to sound methods
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

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