Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:
March to May 2022 estimates show a fall in the economic inactivity rate, particularly among those that said they did not want a job, and in the unemployment rate, with a corresponding increase in the employment rate, when compared with the previous three-month period (December 2021 to February 2022).
Total hours worked increased compared with the previous three-month period but are still just below pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels.
The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.9%, 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period but 0.7 percentage points lower than before the coronavirus pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020).
The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%, 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period, and 0.2 percentage points below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.1%, 0.4 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period, but 0.9 percentage points higher than before the coronavirus pandemic.
December 2019 to
(000s, aged 16+)
(aged 16 to 64)
(000s, aged 16+)
(000s, aged 16 to 64)
|Economic inactivity rate|
(aged 16 to 64)
|Total weekly hours|
(000s, aged 16 years and over,
not seasonally adjusted)
(per thousand, aged 16+,
not seasonally adjusted)
Download this table Table 1: March to May 2022 headline measures and changes.xls .csv
Figure 1: March to May 2022 estimates show a decrease in economic inactivity and unemployment rates, with a corresponding increase in the employment rate
UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between March to May 2007 and March to May 2022
Download the data
During the first year of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there was a decrease in the employment rate and increases in the economic inactivity and unemployment rates for both men and women. However, the unemployment rate for both men and women has now returned to levels similar to those seen before the coronavirus pandemic (Figure 2).
During the latest three-month period (March to May 2022), the increase in the employment rate and the decrease in the inactivity rate were driven by both men and women, while the decrease in the unemployment rate was largely driven by men.
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Following an increase in the employment rate since early 2012, the rate decreased from the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, there has been an increase since the end of 2020.
The number of full-time employees increased during the latest three-month period (to a record high). Part-time employees also increased during the latest three-month period, continuing to show a recovery from the large falls in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of self-employed workers fell in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic and has remained low, although the number has increased during the latest three-month period (Figure 3). The increase was driven by part-time self-employed, and was largely offset by a decrease in the number of full-time self-employed.
Total actual weekly hours worked in the UK have been increasing since the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures. Compared with the previous three-month period, total actual weekly hours worked increased by 6.5 million hours to 1.05 billion hours in March to May 2022 (Figure 4). This is still 6.4 million below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels (December 2019 to February 2020); however, total actual weekly hours worked by women exceed pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
After falling in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the average actual weekly hours worked have now returned to levels similar to those seen before the coronavirus pandemic, with the average hours worked by part-time workers 0.3 hours above their pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. Consequently, the shortfall in total hours compared with pre-coronavirus pandemic levels is down to the reduced numbers in employment.
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The unemployment rate had generally been falling since late 2013 until the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It increased until the end of 2020 but has now returned to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. Over the latest three-month period, the unemployment rate decreased.
Those unemployed for up to six months increased over the latest three-month period at the fastest rate since late 2020. This was largely driven by reductions in economic inactivity (see Section 7) rather than redundancies (see Section 8). However, this was offset by decreases in those unemployed for over six months, with those unemployed for between 6 and 12 months decreasing to a record low (Figure 5).Back to table of contents
Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate had generally been falling; however, it has increased during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
During the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, increases in economic inactivity were largely driven by those aged 16 to 24 years (Figure 6). However, more recent increases were driven by those aged 50 to 64 years, with 70% of the increase in inactivity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic being driven by this age group. More detail on this trend is available in Movements out of work for those aged over 50 years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, published on 14 March 2022. The number of economically inactive people aged 16 to 24 years has generally been decreasing since early 2021, and economic inactivity for all age groups decreased in the latest period.
The increase in economic inactivity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic had been largely driven by those who were students, the long-term sick and those who were economically inactive for “other” reasons (Figure 7). All reasons for economic inactivity decreased in the latest period, but was largely driven by those who were economically inactive because they were looking after family/home, students or long-term sick.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the increases in economic inactivity were driven by those who were economically inactive and who did not want a job. This group have now also driven the quarterly decrease during the latest period.Back to table of contents
In March to May 2022, reports of redundancies in the three months prior to interview decreased by 0.8 per thousand employees, compared with the previous three-month period, to a record low of 1.8 per thousand employees (Figure 8).
We are now also publishing a table showing potential redundancies, covering those notified by employers to the Insolvency Service through the "HR1" form, broken down by region and industry.Back to table of contents
Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A05 SA | Released 19 July 2022
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity broken down into age bands.
Full-time, part-time and temporary workers
Dataset EMP01 SA | Released 19 July 2022
Estimates of UK employment including a breakdown by sex, type of employment, and full-time and part-time working.
Actual weekly hours worked
Dataset HOUR01 SA | Released 19 July 2022
Estimates for the hours that people in employment work in the UK.
Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 19 July 2022
Estimates of unemployment in the UK including a breakdown by sex, age group and the length of time people are unemployed.
Economic inactivity by reason
Dataset INAC01 SA | Released 19 July 2022
Estimates of those not in the UK labour force measured by the reasons given for economic inactivity.
Impact of LFS reweighting on key Labour Force Survey indicators
Dataset X08 | Released 14 June 2022
Estimates of important LFS indicators using both old and new weighting methodology, and the revisions between the two series.
Actual and usual hours worked
Statistics for usual hours worked measure how many hours people usually work per week. Compared with actual hours worked, they are not affected by absences and so can provide a better measure of normal working patterns. For example, a person who usually works 37 hours a week but who was on holiday for a week would be recorded as working zero actual hours for that week, while usual hours would be recorded as 37 hours.
Workers temporarily absent from a job as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would still be classed as employed; however, they would be employed working no hours. This has directly affected estimates of total actual hours worked during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the average actual weekly hours are the average of all in employment, those temporarily absent from a job also affected these estimates.
People not in the labour force (also known as economically inactive) are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment because they have not been seeking work within the last four weeks and/or are unable to start work in the next two weeks. The economic inactivity rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are not in the labour force.
Employment measures the number of people in paid work or who had a job that they were temporarily away from (for example, because they were on holiday or off sick). This differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment.
Workers furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), or those who were self-employed but temporarily not in work, had a reasonable expectation of returning to their jobs after a temporary period of absence. Therefore, they were classified as employed under the International Labour Organization (ILO) definition.
A more detailed explanation is available in our Guide to labour market statistics.
The redundancy estimates measure the number of people who were made redundant or who took voluntary redundancy in the three months before the Labour Force Survey interviews; it does not take into consideration planned redundancies.
Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are available to start work within the next two weeks. The unemployment rate is not the proportion of the total population that is unemployed. It is the proportion of the economically active population (that is, those in work plus those seeking and available to work) that is unemployed.
A more detailed glossary is available.Back to table of contents
This bulletin relies on data collected from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the largest household survey in the UK.
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our LFS Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report.
Our LFS performance and quality monitoring reports provide data on response rates and other quality-related issues for the LFS.
LFS estimates published from 14 June 2022 have been reweighted for periods from January to March 2020, using updated Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) data. This uses the same method of applying growth rates from PAYE RTI data as that implemented in July 2021. The non-response bias adjustment, previously implemented for England, Wales and Scotland data, has now also been applied to Northern Ireland data. Our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators: 2022 article explains the impact and gives a more detailed reweighting timeline. Our Dataset X08: Impact of LFS reweighting on key Labour Force Survey indicators includes estimates of important LFS indicators using both old and new population weights, and the revisions between the two series.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Occupational data in ONS surveys
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has identified an issue with the collection of some occupational data in a number of our surveys, including the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS), which are used in the production of the Labour Market publication. While we estimate any impacts will be small overall, this will affect the accuracy of the breakdowns of some detailed (4-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)) occupations, and data derived from them. Although the majority are unaffected, we are urging caution in the interpretation of these detailed data as we resolve the issue.
None of our headline statistics, other than those directly sourced from occupational data, are affected and you can continue to rely on their accuracy. This issue does not affect Census 2021 or the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey in any way. For more information , see our statement on occupational data in ONS social surveys.Back to table of contents
Uncertainty in these data
The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty.
The figures in this bulletin come from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which gathers information from a sample of households across the UK rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed to be as accurate as possible, given practical limitations. Results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.
As the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates gets larger. Estimates for small groups, which are based on small subsets of the LFS sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups.
In general, changes in the numbers (and especially the rates) reported in this bulletin between three-month periods are small and are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.
Information on the quality of estimates is available in our Labour Force Survey sampling variability table.
The data in this bulletin follow internationally accepted definitions specified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). This ensures that the estimates for the UK are comparable with those for other countries.
The annual reconciliation report of job estimates article compares the latest workforce jobs series estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the LFS. It is usually published every March but has been postponed until after the workforce jobs series has been reweighted.
Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 455400