Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:
March to May 2023 estimates show increases in the employment rate and the unemployment rate compared with the previous quarter (December 2022 to February 2023) while the economic inactivity rate decreased.
The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.0%, 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter and 0.6 percentage points lower than before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020).
The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.0%, 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, and has risen to pre-pandemic levels.
The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.8%, 0.4 percentage points lower than the previous quarter and 0.6 percentage points higher than before the pandemic.
Total hours worked increased in the latest quarter and is above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
|Level or Rate||Change on |
|Change on |
|Change since |
to February 2020
16 to 64 years)
aged 16 to
(aged 16 to
|Total weekly |
Download this table Table 1: March to May 2023 headline measures and changes.xls .csv
Figure 1: March to May 2023 estimates show increases in the employment and unemployment rates, while the economic inactivity rate decreased
UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between March to May 2008 and March to May 2023
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 rates for both men and women have now returned to levels similar to those seen before the coronavirus pandemic (Figure 2).
In the latest quarter, the increases in the employment and unemployment rates and the decrease in economic inactivity rate were 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. There has largely been an increase since the end of 2020, and the employment rate increased during the latest quarter but remains below pre-pandemic levels. The number of people in employment increased in the latest quarter and is slightly below pre-pandemic levels. For more information about emploment rates, see Section 3 of A guide to labour market statistics methodology.
The number of full-time employees saw a small decrease during the latest quarter and is still above pre-pandemic levels. Part-time employees increased during the latest quarter, largely driving the increase in the employment rate. The number of self-employed workers fell in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the latest quarter, full-time self-employed workers increased while part-time self-employed workers decreased (Figure 3).
The number of people in employment with second jobs decreased in the early stages of the pandemic. It steadily increased thereafter but decreased during the latest quarter, to 1.17 million (3.5% of people in employment).
Total actual weekly hours worked in the UK have been generally increasing since the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures; however this was followed by a slight decrease since April to June 2022. In the latest quarter, total actual weekly hours worked increased by 4.5 million to 1.05 billion hours (Figure 4). This is 2.7 million hours above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels (December 2019 to February 2020). For more information on total actual weekly hours worked, see Section 4 of A guide to labour market statistics methodology.
The increase in the latest quarter was driven by both men and women. The total weekly hours worked by women is above pre-pandemic levels, while the total actual weekly hours worked by men remains below pre-pandemic levels.
After falling sharply in the early stages of the pandemic, average actual weekly hours worked have now returned to levels similar to those seen before coronavirus and are largely unchanged in the latest quarter. The average actual weekly hours worked have been affected by additional bank holidays in the summer and autumn of 2022 and strikes in recent periods.
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The unemployment rate had generally been falling from late 2013 until the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Thereafter it increased until the end of 2020 but has now returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. Over the latest quarter, the unemployment rate increased. For more information on unemployment rates, see Section 9 of A guide to labour market statistics methodology.
In the latest quarter, the number of people unemployed for up to 12 months increased, while those unemployed for over 12 months decreased (Figure 5).Back to table of contents
Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate had generally been falling; however, it increased during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It decreased in March to May 2023 compared with the previous quarter. For more information on economic inactivity rates, see Section 6 of A guide to labour market statistics methodology.
Increases in economic inactivity in the first year of the pandemic were largely driven by those aged 16 to 24 years, while more recent increases were driven by those aged 50 to 64 years (Figure 6). In the latest quarter there were decreases in the economic inactivity rates for all aged 25 years and over, while those aged 16 to 24 years were largely unchanged.
The increase in economic inactivity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic had been largely driven by those who were students and the long-term sick (Figure 7).
The decrease in economic inactivity during the latest quarter (March to May 2023) was largely driven by those inactive for other reasons, those looking after family or home, and those who are retired. Those inactive because of long-term sickness decreased marginally on the quarter.Back to table of contents
In March to May 2023, the number of people reporting redundancy in the three months prior to interview increased by 0.2 per thousand employees compared with the previous quarter, to 3.3 per thousand employees (Figure 8).
We now publish a dataset showing potential redundancies, covering those notified by employers to the Insolvency Service through the HR1 form, broken down by region and industry, as shown in our HR1: Potential redundancies dataset.Back to table of contents
Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity by age group (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset A05 SA | Released 11 July 2023
Employment, unemployment and economic activity and inactivity by age group (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.
Full-time, part-time and temporary workers (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset EMP01 SA | Released 11 July 2023
Full-time, part-time and temporary workers (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.
Actual weekly hours worked (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset HOUR01 SA | Released 11 July 2023
Actual weekly hours worked including by sex, full-time, part-time and second jobs, UK, rolling three-monthly figures published monthly, seasonally adjusted. Labour Force Survey.
Unemployment by age and duration (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 11 July 2023
Unemployment by age and duration (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.
Economic inactivity by reason (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset INAC01 SA | Released 11 July 2023
Economic inactivity (aged 16 to 64 years) by reason (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.
Impact of LFS reweighting on key Labour Force Survey indicators
Dataset X08 | Released 14 June 2022
Estimates of key 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. For more information on usual and actual hours worked, see Section 4 of A guide to labour market statistics methodology.
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.
The Claimant Count is an Experimental Statistic that measures the number of people who are receiving a benefit principally for the reason of being unemployed. Currently the Claimant Count consists of those receiving Jobseekers' Allowance, and Univeral Credit claimants in the "searching for work" conditionality group.
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. For more information on economic inactivity, see Section 6 of A guide to labour market statistics methodology.
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 Section 3 of A Guide to labour market statistics methodology.
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. For more information on unemployment, see Section 9 of A Guide to labour market statistics methodology.
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.
The LFS performance and quality monitoring reports provide data on response rates and other quality-related issues for the LFS.
For more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see our Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics article.
For a comparison of our labour market data sources and the main differences, see our Comparison of labour market data sources methodology.
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
On 18 July 2022, the Office for National Statistics announced an issue with the collection of some occupational data. On 26 September 2022, we informed users of the impact of the coding error in our Impact of miscoding of occupational data article. We have undertaken a recoding exercise to correct the error and have revised affected Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates alongside this release. For more detail on the new methodology used and its impact, see Revision of miscoded occupational data in the ONS Labour Force Survey, UK article, released 11 July at 9:30.
We will be updating Annual Population Survey estimates published on Nomis alongside the August 2023 labour market release.Back to table of contents
Uncertainty in these data
The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty. For more information on uncertainty, see our Uncertainty and how we measure it for our surveys webpage.
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. For more information on sampling, see Section 2 of our Uncertainty and how we measure it for our surveys.
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 quarters 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 dataset.
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 in March each year following the benchmarking of Workforce Jobs.
Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics methodology.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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