Labour market overview, UK: September 2020

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

15 September 2020

The effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our capacity means we have reviewed the existing labour market releases and suspended some publications.

This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining labour market outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of the coronavirus. More details about the impact on labour market outputs can be found in our statement.

This is an accredited National Statistic. Click for information about types of official statistics.

Cyswllt:
Email Debra Leaker

Dyddiad y datganiad:
15 September 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
13 October 2020

2. Main points

Early indicators for August 2020 suggest that the number of employees in the UK on payrolls was down around 695,000 compared with March 2020.

Figures for May to July 2020 show an increase in the unemployment rate; despite this increase and an increase in the number of redundancies, the employment rate was up and the economic inactivity rate has fallen.

Over the quarter, there has been a large decrease in the number of young people in employment, while unemployment for young people has increased.

While redundancies were still historically low, both the quarterly and annual changes are the largest seen since 2009.

The number of people who are estimated to be temporarily away from work (including furloughed workers) has fallen, but it was still more than 5 million in July 2020, with over 2.5 million of these being away for three months or more. There were also around 250,000 people away from work because of the pandemic and receiving no pay in July 2020.

Total hours worked was still low but showed some signs of recovery in the three months to July 2020.

Vacancies continued to show increases in the latest period, driven by the smaller businesses, some of which are reporting taking on additional staff to meet coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines.

The Claimant Count reached 2.7 million in August 2020, an increase of 120.8% since March 2020.

The rate of decline in employee pay growth slowed in July following strong falls in the previous three months. For the sectors of wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants and construction, where the highest percentage of employees returned to work from furlough, there was a slight improvement in pay growth for July 2020.

  • May to July figures show an increase in the unemployment rate; despite this increase and an increase in the number of redundancies, the employment rate is still not falling.

  • Though still large, the reductions in total hours worked both on the year and the quarter are smaller than last month, with the May to July period covering a time when some of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown measures started to be eased.

  • Early estimates for August 2020 from Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) indicate that the number of payroll employees fell by 2.4% (695,000) compared with March 2020.

  • The Claimant Count increased in August 2020, reaching 2.7 million; this includes both those working with low income or hours and those who are not working.

  • Vacancies in the UK in June to August 2020 were at an estimated 434,000; this is almost 30% higher than the record low in April to June 2020.

  • The rate of decline in employee pay growth slowed in July following strong falls in the previous three months; growth has been affected by lower pay for furloughed employees and reduced bonuses; with some employees returning to work, nominal regular pay growth is back positive for May to July 2020 after being negative in the three months to June 2020.

!

The majority of data in this bulletin come from surveys of households and businesses. It is not possible to survey every household and business each month, so these statistics are estimates based on samples.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

3. Coronavirus and measuring the labour market

The data presented in this bulletin are collected from various sources. Each cover different reference periods or count dates and are therefore impacted differently by the coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing and lockdown measures.

Figure 1 shows the data reported in this bulletin (dark bars) alongside their different reference periods and count dates (white text). The main coronavirus dates are included to show how much of the data presented were impacted by the implementation of coronavirus social distancing and lockdown measures.

Figure 1: Impact of the main coronavirus (COVID-19) dates on labour market data sources

Data source reporting periods, reference periods and count dates alongside main coronavirus (COVID-19) dates

Embed code

Because of COVID-19 and the suspension of face-to-face interviewing on 17 March, we had to make operational changes to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), particularly in the way that we contact households for interview, which moved to a "by telephone" approach. These changes have resulted in a response where certain characteristics have not been as well represented as previously. This is evidenced in a change in the balance of type of household that we are reaching. In particular, the proportion of households where people own their homes in the sample has increased and rented accommodation households has decreased. At this point in time, we cannot fully quantify this, but initial analysis produced by introducing weighting by tenure type indicates that our headline figures might be slightly impacted by the changes but within the bounds of statistical variation. Further investigations are being carried out and will be presented in an article.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

4. Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity

Figure 2: May to July figures show an increase in the unemployment rate; despite this increase, the employment rate is still not falling

UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between May to July 2010 and May to July 2020

Embed code

Download this chart

.XLSX

Employment

Employment measures the number of people aged 16 years and over in paid work and those who had a job that they were temporarily away from (to which they are expecting to return). The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment.

Estimates for May to July 2020 show 32.98 million people aged 16 years and over in employment, 202,000 more than a year earlier but 12,000 fewer than the previous quarter.

For May to July 2020:

  • the estimated employment rate for all people was 76.5%; this is 0.4 percentage points up on the year and 0.1 percentage points up on the quarter

  • the estimated employment rate for men was 80.2%; this is 0.1 percentage points down on the year and 0.1 percentage points up on the quarter

  • the estimated employment rate for women was 72.9%, a joint record high; this is 0.8 percentage points up on the year and 0.2 percentage points up on the quarter

Looking more closely at the change in employment over the quarter by age group, those aged 16 to 24 years decreased by 156,000 to 3.63 million (with a record decrease of 146,000 for those aged 18 to 24 years), while those aged 65 years and over decreased by 92,000 to 1.28 million (with a record decrease of 79,000 for women in that age group). In contrast, there was a combined increase of 236,000 on the quarter for those aged 25 to 64 years to 28.07 million (with a record increase of 67,000 for women in the 25 to 34 years age group).

Estimates of the number of people in employment on the Labour Force Survey (LFS) are consistent with the International Labour Organization (ILO) definition of employment. Under this definition, employment includes both those who are in work during the reference period and those who are temporarily away from a job. Experimental estimates based on returns for individual weeks show that more than 5 million people were temporarily away from paid work in July 2020, with approximately 2.5 million of these being away for three months or more. Of those away for three months or more, at the end of July 2020 approximately four-fifths were earning half or more of their salary.

Further details of the experimental weekly figures can be found in the Single-month and weekly LFS articles.

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.

Estimates for May to July 2020 show an estimated 1.40 million people were unemployed, 104,000 more than a year earlier and 62,000 more than the previous quarter.

For May to July 2020:

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for all people was 4.1%; this is 0.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for men was 4.3%; this is 0.3 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 3.8%; this is 0.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter

Looking in more detail at unemployment by age, the estimated number of people unemployed aged 16 to 24 years increased by 76,000 on the year to 563,000. Other age groups saw falls or very little change over the year.

Looking at the duration of unemployment, it is those unemployed for up to six months who are seeing the largest increases, up 202,000 over the year to 988,000.

Last month, we reported on a group of employees who, because of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, have reported that they are temporarily away from work and not getting paid. Similarly, there is a group of self-employed people who are temporarily away from work but not eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Although these people consider themselves to have a job and therefore are consistent with the ILO definition of employment, their lack of income means that they may soon need to look for work unless they are able to return to their job.

It is also possible to identify certain groups who are economically inactive as they are not currently looking for work but may look for work in the future. These are primarily those who want a job but are not yet looking, but it also includes those who report they do not want a job and either do not believe jobs are available, are not yet looking or are inactive for some other unspecified reason.

Between April to June 2020 and May to July 2020, the number of people in these groups -- the inactive who may begin to seek work and those temporarily away from work for coronavirus reasons, without earnings -- decreased from 2.13 million to 2.03 million (Figure 5). This decrease in the number of people who are around the fringes of unemployment coupled with the observed increase in unemployment suggests that some of the people who could have potentially been seeking employment in the previous period (April to June 2020) were actually seeking employment in May to July 2020.

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.

Estimates for May to July 2020 show 8.35 million people aged between 16 and 64 years not in the labour force (economically inactive), 235,000 fewer than a year earlier and 118,000 fewer than the previous quarter.

For May to July 2020:

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for all people was 20.2%, a joint record low; this is down by 0.6 percentage points on the year and down by 0.3 percentage points on the quarter

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for men was 16.1%; this is down by 0.2 percentage points on the year and down by 0.3 percentage points on the quarter

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for women was 24.1%, a record low; this is down by 1.0 percentage points on the year and down by 0.3 percentage points on the quarter

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

5. Hours worked

Between February to April 2020 and May to July 2020, total actual weekly hours worked in the UK decreased by 93.9 million to 866.0 million hours. Average actual weekly hours fell by 2.8 hours on the quarter to 26.3 hours.

Over the year, total actual weekly hours worked in the UK decreased by 183.8 million to 866.0 million hours in the three months to July 2020. Over the same period, average actual weekly hours fell by 5.8 hours to 26.3 hours. The accommodation and food service activities sector saw the biggest annual fall in average actual weekly hours, down by 15.4 hours to 13.5 hours per week.

Experimental estimates based on returns for individual weeks suggest that the average number of weekly hours worked started to slowly increase in July. Further details of the experimental weekly figures can be found in the Single-month and weekly Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates bulletin.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

6. Redundancies

Redundancies increased by 58,000 on the year and 48,000 on the quarter to 156,000. These are the largest annual and quarterly increases seen since 2009. While this is the highest level since September to November 2012, the level remains well below that seen during the 2008 downturn.

The redundancies estimates measure the number of people who were made redundant or who took voluntary redundancy in the three months before the Labour Force Survey (LFS) interviews; it does not take into consideration planned redundancies.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

7. Pay As You Earn Real Time Information

Experimental data on the number of payroll employees and median earnings, using HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC's) Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI), also show current labour market conditions.

The latest figures show a fall in payroll employees in recent months. Early estimates for August 2020 from PAYE RTI indicate that the number of payroll employees fell by 2.4% compared with March 2020. In August, 695,000 fewer people were in paid employment than in March 2020 and 36,000 fewer than in July 2020.

Declines in the number of paid employees in recent months can be explained by examining inflows and outflows from payroll employment, included in the Earnings and employment from PAYE RTI bulletin. For most of the periods prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, outflows and inflows were broadly equal – with inflows being slightly higher, resulting in a net increase in paid employment (see Figure 9).

While payrolled employment has fallen since the coronavirus pandemic, the changes in inflows and outflows driving this fall have differed. The April 2020 fall, which was the largest, was (broadly) equally because of an increase in outflows and a decrease in inflows compared with their pre-pandemic trends. From May to July 2020, outflows fell and remained below their pre-pandemic level while inflows remained below their usual level. As a result, the falls in payrolled employment in May to July can be explained primarily through lower than usual inflows rather than higher than usual outflows. Early data for August indicate both inflows and outflows increased toward their pre-COVID-19 levels, but recent data periods are subject to increased levels of imputation and so should be treated as experimental and with caution.

Early estimates for August 2020 indicate that median monthly pay increased to £1,872, an increase of 2.7% when compared with the same period of the previous year.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

8. Claimant Count (Experimental Statistics)

These Claimant Count Experimental Statistics relate to 13 August 2020. Enhancements to Universal Credit as part of the UK government's response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) mean that an increasing number of people became eligible for unemployment-related benefit support despite still being in work. Consequently, changes in the Claimant Count will not be wholly because of changes in the number of people who are not in work. We are not able to identify to what extent people who are employed or unemployed have affected the numbers.

More detail on the Claimant Count can be found in the Employment in the UK bulletin.

Between July 2020 and August 2020, the Claimant Count increased by 73,700 (2.8%) to 2.7 million (Figure 10). Since March 2020, the Claimant Count has increased by 120.8% or 1.5 million.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

9. Vacancies

For June to August 2020, there were an estimated 434,000 vacancies in the UK, which is almost 30% higher than the record low in April to June 2020. The increase was driven by small businesses (those with 49 or fewer employees). Estimated vacancies for June to August 2020 were 48,000 fewer than in the previous quarter, March to May 2020 (where the responses for the first month were prior to the start of coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing measures), and 383,000 fewer than a year earlier.

While the experimental single-month estimates should not be considered accurate estimates of vacancies in the reported months, they do indicate for August 2020 an increase of approximately 55% in the estimated vacancies compared with the record low in May 2020. However, estimated vacancies for August 2020 were still around 40% less than in February 2020.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

10. Earnings growth

In May to July 2020, the rate of annual pay growth stood at negative 1.0% for total pay but positive 0.2% for regular pay. The difference between the two measures is because of subdued bonuses, which fell by an average negative 21.4% (in nominal terms) in the three months from May to July 2020.

The rate of growth has been slowing since April to June 2019, when it stood at 4.0% for total pay and 3.9% for regular pay, the highest nominal pay growth rates since 2008. It had slowed to 2.9% in December 2019 to February 2020 immediately prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but since then it has slowed sharply before stabilising in May to July 2020.

Between May to July 2019 and May to July 2020, average pay growth varied by industry sector. The public sector saw the highest estimated growth, at 4.5% for regular pay. Negative growth was seen in the construction sector, estimated at negative 7.5%; the wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants sector, estimated at negative 3.2%; and the manufacturing sector, estimated at negative 1.7%.

For the construction, manufacturing, and wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants sectors, the single-month estimate of annual growth for July 2020 shows signs of improvement when compared with May to July 2020.

In real terms, pay is now growing at a slower rate than inflation, at negative 1.8% for total pay. Regular pay growth in real terms is also negative, at negative 0.7%.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

11. Economic commentary

In the three months to July 2020, UK workers were largely shielded from the adverse effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by the job retention schemes. From May 2020, lockdown measures started to be relaxed with some businesses reopening and some workers starting work again. In the three months to July, employment declined slightly. Between January to March and May to July 2020, the number of employees as measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) increased by 123,000 to 28.09 million. Between March and August, the number of payroll employees, as measured by the HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC's) Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) data, decreased by 695,000 to 28.3 million.

In the period May to July 2020, unemployment increased with more men than women becoming unemployed. Overall economic inactivity declined, and the number of discouraged workers increased. In addition, the compositions of both unemployment and economic inactivity have been changing. Younger workers (those aged 18 to 24 years) experienced the largest decrease in employment and the largest increases in unemployment. This age group experienced the second-largest increase in economic inactivity, after workers aged 65 years and over. The increase in youth unemployment is linked to younger workers' tendency to work in industries that were worst affected by the pandemic, that is, accommodation and food service activities and arts, entertainment and recreation. In addition, quarantine rules for international travellers to the UK have affected the flow of tourists, which may slow the recovery of the industries worst affected by the pandemic.

The labour market outcomes are linked to economic growth performance. In Quarter 2 (May to June) 2020, UK gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 20.4%, following on a 2.2% decline in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2020. Of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the UK experienced the greatest GDP decline in Quarter 2 2020, followed by France (negative 13.8%) and Italy (negative 12.8%). In the UK, the largest decline was in the construction sector (negative 35%), followed by the services sector (negative 19.9%) and production (negative 16.9%). Although monthly GDP grew by 8.7% in June 2020, this did not offset the declines in April and May (20% and 18.7% respectively). Despite the overall decline, there was widespread recovery in services, manufacturing and construction in June.

The reopening of the UK economy continued in July 2020. The government, through initiatives supporting the labour market (the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)), shielded the labour market from the worst consequences of the pandemic. Despite these initiatives, uncertainty about future performance of the economy remained. The Bank of England's Decision Maker Panel (DMP) survey for the period 3 to 17 July 2020 found that most firms (76%) viewed economic uncertainty as high or very high. Uncertainty was also heightened by the prospects for the end of the job retention schemes and of employers having to start contributing to salaries covered by the CJRS.

The DMP found that businesses expected Quarter 2 2020 sales, employment and investment to be lower than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses expected the impact on employment to be more persistent than on sales. However, businesses reported that the number of workers on furlough had reduced from 30% in June to 18% in July as more workers returned to work. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey (BICS) for the period 13 to 26 July reported that the highest proportion of the workforce returning from furlough was in the entertainment and recreation sector (25%), followed by that in the accommodation and food service activities sector (17%).

Although workers continued to return from furlough leave, the economy continued to experience elevated economic uncertainty, increasing redundancies and unemployment, and falling incomes because of the pandemic. However, the easing of restrictions has helped production and spending to increase even though the recovery is uneven across the economy because of different abilities to implement social distancing requirements and strengths of cashflows. The IHS Markit UK Household Finance Index for July shows that the index increased in July, reaching the highest level since March 2020. This was in response to reopening of the economy. Overall, households' overall perceptions of financial well-being remained pessimistic in July and worsened in August because of weak job security.

Despite the pessimism about financial well-being, households increased spending in July. The ONS reported that in July 2020, the volume of retail sales increased compared with June and rose above the pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, driven by growth in non-food and fuel sales. However, the retail sector was characterised by a changing structure of sales shifting more in favour of online sales that in July were 50.4% higher than the pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 and accounted for 28.9% of retail spending. The structural change may disadvantage low-skill and low-paid workers in the sector, who may find occupational switching difficult. The latest IHS Markit and CIPS UK Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) business activity index was 56.5 in July and increased in August. Services sector business confidence reached a five-month high in July, although new work abroad decreased and businesses reduced employment.

The UK economy remains vulnerable to flare-ups of COVID-19 infections, which disrupt economic activities if local lockdown measures to reduce the spread of the disease are put in place. The use of public transport remained limited as commuters feared getting infected. Many factors affect the rate of returning to work and influence workers' desire to continue working from home, even though the rate of exclusive working from home decreased from a peak of 38% in June to 24% in July.

Working at the office is changing, with some firms indicating that they have no immediate plans for their workers to return to the office and only allowing workers who cannot work from home into the office. Some pandemic-induced work flexibility may prove to be permanent, but the government is encouraging workers to return to the office if their employers have put in place necessary changes that allow social distancing on site.

The demand for labour remained subdued while labour supply (unemployment) increased. Redundancies increased by 45.3% on the quarter to 156,000 in the three months to July 2020. Some of the people who were made redundant became unemployed because they perceived vacancies in the economy were increasing. Others became economically inactive as the number of discouraged workers increased by 65.7% on the quarter to 62,000. Redundancies are driven by firms' uncertainty about the future, cashflow challenges and uncertain prospects for the end of the job retention schemes. The situation is compounded by limited vacancy numbers. In the three months to July 2020, vacancies decreased across all industries by, on average, 42.5% on the quarter to 370,000 with the largest decreases in arts, entertainment and recreation and in accommodation and food service activities. Vacancies also decreased by 9.9% on quarter to 434,000 in the three months to August 2020. However, the ONS's experimental Adzuna online vacancies data show that online vacancies started increasing in May 2020 even though between 17 and 24 July the volume of job adverts remained at 52% of its 2019 average. Experimental monthly vacancies data also show that vacancies started increasing in June 2020.

Average weekly earnings growth remained subdued in July 2020 because of the pandemic. Total pay growth was negative 1.0% in the year to July. It was also negative in May and June. Regular pay growth was 0.2% in July after declining in June. Bonuses in the private sector fell by 20.5% in the year to July and by 28.9% in the public sector over the same period. Total pay growth in the private sector declined in May, June and July but increased in the public sector. The impacts of the pandemic continue to show in the economy.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

12. Labour market data

Summary of labour market statistics
Dataset A01 | Released 15 September 2020
Estimates of employment, unemployment and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A02 SA | Released 15 September 2020
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for people aged 16 years and over and people aged between 16 and 64 years based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Average weekly earnings
Dataset EARN01 | Released 15 September 2020
Estimates of Great Britain earnings growth based on the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey.

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 15 September 2020
Estimates of the number of UK job vacancies for each industry, based on a survey of businesses.

Real Time Information statistics
Dataset Real Time Information statistics | Released 15 September 2020
Earnings and employment statistics from Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) (Experimental Statistics) seasonally adjusted.

Claimant Count
Dataset CLA01 | Released 15 September 2020
Experimental estimates of the Claimant Count including Jobseeker's Allowance and out of work Universal Credit claimants.

Labour Force Survey weekly estimates
Dataset X07 | Released 15 September 2020
LFS weekly estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and hours in the UK. All estimates are calculated from highly experimental weekly LFS datasets.

View all related data on the related data page. Alternatively, Nomis provides free access to the most detailed and up-to-date UK labour market statistics from official sources.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

13. Glossary

Average weekly earnings

Average weekly earnings measures 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 as 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) are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment because they have not been seeking work within the last four weeks and/or they are unable to start work in the next two weeks. The economic inactivity rate is the proportion of people aged 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 A 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 (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.

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).

Claimant Count

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

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 (DWP). However, the Claimant Count estimates provide the best available estimates of the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in the UK.

The Claimant Count does not meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The estimates are sourced from the Jobcentre Plus administrative system.

There is a large degree of overlap between the Claimant Count and unemployment, although the latter figures are generally much higher. People who are not claimants can appear among the unemployed if they are not entitled to unemployment-related benefits. For example:

  • people who are only looking for part-time work

  • young people aged under 18 years, who are not usually eligible to claim Jobseeker's Allowance

  • students looking for vacation work

  • people who have left their job voluntarily

Some people recorded in the Claimant Count would not be counted as unemployed. For example, in certain circumstances people can claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit while they have relatively low earnings from part-time work. These people would not be unemployed.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI)

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 release is classed as Experimental Statistics as the methodologies used to produce the statistics are still in their development phase. As a result, the series are subject to revisions.

PAYE is the system employers and pension providers use to take Income Tax and National Insurance contributions before they pay wages or pensions to employees and pensioners. This publication relates to employees only and not pensioners.

A more detailed glossary is available.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

14. Measuring the data

Coronavirus

In response to the developing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are working to ensure that we continue to publish economic statistics. For more information, please see COVID-19 and the production of statistics.

We have reviewed all publications and data published as part of the labour market release in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to the postponement of some publications and datasets to ensure that we can continue to publish our main labour market data. This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining outputs and ensure we can respond to new demands as a direct result of the coronavirus.

For more information on how labour market data sources, among others, will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the statement published on 27 March 2020. A further article published on 6 May 2020 detailed some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time. A blog published in July 2020 by Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics, explains some of the differences between sources.

Our latest data and analysis on the impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy and population are available on our dedicated coronavirus web page. This is the hub for all special coronavirus-related publications, drawing on all available data.

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 Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) definitions and agreed international statistical guidance.

Pre-release data

The Bank of England were granted exceptional pre-release access to the Labour market overview, UK: September 2020 bulletin and accompanying tables at 1:00pm, followed by access to HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) data at 1:30pm on Friday 11 September 2020, so that the data were available for the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held on that day. See exchange of letters from June and September requesting exceptional pre-release access so that data are available for discussion at the MPC meeting.

The employment, unemployment and economic inactivity estimates rely on data collected from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a survey run by field interviewers with people across the UK every month.

The LFS performance and quality monitoring reports provide data on response rates and other quality-related issues for the LFS, including breakdowns of response by LFS wave, region and question-specific response issues. The average weekly earnings and vacancies estimates rely on data collected from surveys of employers.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the following QMI reports:

Future publication dates

13 October 2020
10 November 2020
15 December 2020
26 January 2021
23 February 2021
23 March 2021

Sampling variability

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

15. Strengths and limitations

Accuracy of the statistics: estimating and reporting uncertainty

Some of the figures in this bulletin come from surveys, which gather information from a sample 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. Therefore, the estimates presented in this bulletin contain some uncertainty and are 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 Labour Force Survey (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.

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

Where to find data about uncertainty and reliability

Dataset A11 shows sampling variabilities for estimates derived from the LFS.

Sampling variability information for average weekly earnings growth rates is available from the 'Sampling Variability' worksheets within datasets EARN01 and EARN03. The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level. Information on revisions is available in the labour market statistics revisions policy.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

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