Employment in the UK: January 2022

Estimates of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for the UK.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

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

Contact:
Email Bob Watson

Release date:
18 January 2022

Next release:
15 February 2022

2. Main points

  • September to November 2021 estimates showed a continuing recovery in the labour market, with an increase in the employment rate and a decrease in the unemployment rate compared with the previous three-month period (June to August 2021).

  • Total hours worked decreased slightly compared with the previous three-month period and are still below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, despite the loosening of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.5%, 1.1 percentage points lower than before the coronavirus pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020), but 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period (June to August 2021).

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.1%, 0.1 percentage points higher than before the pandemic, but 0.4 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.3%, 1.0 percentage point higher than before the pandemic, and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period.

Back to table of contents

3. Coronavirus and measuring the labour market

Latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on interviews that took place from September to November 2021. Many of the government lockdown restrictions had eased prior to this period, however, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was withdrawn at the end of September 2021. The CJRS was designed to limit the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the labour market. As such, these estimates are based in part on interviews that took place following the end of the CJRS.

Because of coronavirus and the suspension of face-to-face interviewing, we had to make operational changes to the LFS, which moved to a by-telephone approach. This introduced an increased non-response bias to the survey, which was partially mitigated by the introduction of housing tenure-based weights into the survey in October 2020, as detailed in our Coronavirus and its impact on the Labour Force Survey article.

However, it was acknowledged that further improvement work was required to deal with the increase in non-response from those with a non-UK country of birth or nationality. As a result, a new weighting methodology was introduced in July 2021, which calibrates to UK, EU and non-EU-born weighting populations for periods from January to March 2020. The impact on headline measures of rates is relatively small, but there is a larger impact on estimates of levels and changes in levels. Further information is available in our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators, UK: 2020 article. All estimates in this release are based on the new methodology.

More about economy, business and jobs

Back to table of contents

4. Summary

Figure 1: September to November 2021 estimates show an increase in the employment and economic inactivity rates compared to the previous three-month period, while the unemployment rate decreased

UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between September to November 2006 and September to November 2021

Embed code

Download the data

During 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 (Figure 2).

During the latest three-month period, which covered the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), there have been increases in the employment rates and decreases in the unemployment rates for both men and women. The increase in the economic inactivity rate compared with the previous three-month period was driven by women, but the inactivity rate for men has also increased and remains above pre-coronavirus rates.

Young people (those aged 16 to 24 years) have been particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The employment rate for this age group has been decreasing and the unemployment and economic inactivity rates increasing by more than levels seen for those aged 25 years and over. During the latest three-month period, however, there was an increase in the employment rate and a decrease in the unemployment rate for young people to below pre-coronavirus rates (Figure 3). The inactivity rate for young people also decreased compared with the previous three-month period.

Back to table of contents

5. Employment

Following an increase in the employment rate since early 2012, the rate decreased from the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in December 2019 to February 2020. However, there has been an increase since the end of 2020.

The number of part-time workers decreased strongly during the pandemic, but has been increasing since April to June 2021 (Figure 4), driving the increase in employment during the latest three-month period.

Hours worked

Total actual weekly hours worked in the UK have been increasing since the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures, but has now decreased slightly compared to the previous three-month period. Total actual weekly hours worked decreased by 2.6 million hours compared with the previous three-month period, to 1.02 billion hours in September to November 2021 (Figure 5). It is still 33.5 million below pre-coronavirus levels (December 2019 to February 2020).

Back to table of contents

6. Unemployment

The unemployment rate had generally been falling since late 2013 until the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from December 2019 to February 2020. It has increased since then, but has fallen since the end of 2020.

The decrease in unemployment over the latest three-month period was driven by those who were unemployed for up to 12 months, with those unemployed for up to six months decreasing to slightly below pre-coronavirus levels. Those who were unemployed for between 6 and 12 months continued to decrease from the peak reached in early 2021. Long-term unemployment saw the second decrease over a three-month period since May to July 2020 (Figure 6).

The Claimant Count (Experimental Statistics)

There is still uncertainty about interpreting the Claimant Count. This is because of the introduction of Universal Credit and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic (see Section 10). However, the latest figures for December 2021, which follow the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), continued the pattern of falls since March 2021.

Back to table of contents

7. Economic inactivity

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate has generally been falling. However, it increased during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While economic inactivity rates for young people increased during the coronavirus pandemic, these have now fallen. The increase in economic inactivity compared with the previous three-month period was driven by those aged 50 to 64 years (Figure 8).

The increase in economic inactivity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020) was largely driven by those who are economically inactive because they are students or for “other” reasons (Figure 9). While those who are inactive because they are students continued to decrease compared with the previous three-month period, the increase in inactivity in the latest three-month period was driven by those who are inactive because of long-term sickness, because of “other” reasons, and because they are temporarily sick.

The number of economically inactive people who stated that they wanted a job increased in the early stages of the pandemic but has since fallen to a record low.

Back to table of contents

8. Redundancies

In September to November 2021, reports of redundancies in the three months prior to our interview decreased by 0.8 per thousand compared with the previous three-month period to a record low of 2.8 per thousand employees (Figure 10).

Back to table of contents

9. Employment in the UK data

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity by age group (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset A05 SA | Released 18 January 2022
Employment, unemployment, 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 18 January 2022
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 18 January 2022
Actual weekly hours worked (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

Unemployment by age and duration (seasonally adjusted)
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 18 January 2022
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 18 January 2022
Economic inactivity (aged 16 to 64 years) by reason (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are sourced from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households.

Back to table of contents

10. Glossary

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 pandemic. Since the average actual weekly hours are the average of all in employment, those temporarily absent from a job also affected these estimates.

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. This is 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 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 16 and 64 years who are in employment.

Workers furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), or those who are self-employed but temporarily not in work, have a reasonable expectation of returning to their jobs after a temporary period of absence. Therefore, they are classified as employed under the International Labour Organization definition.

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

Claimant Count

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

Redundancies

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. These estimates do not take planned redundancies into consideration.

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 (that is, those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.

A more detailed glossary is available.

Back to table of contents

11. Measuring the data

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 the Labour Force Survey (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.

Reweighting

LFS responses published from 15 July 2021 have been reweighted to new populations using growth rates from HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC's) Real Time Information (RTI), to allow for different trends during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators, UK: 2020 articleexplains the reweighting methodology, which gives improved estimates of both rates and levels.

When the recent weighting methodology for LFS was applied, there was a small error in the implementation. When calculating three-month averages for the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) RTI, the months used were the previous three-month average. For example, for the October to December period, the RTI data used were that for September to November. This led to a slight overestimation of the non-UK population by approximately 0.5%. This represents less than half the size of the sampling variability. The size is roughly the same over the quarters of 2020, and the impact on January to December 2020 Annual Population Survey estimates is about 14,000 for EU born, 25,000 for non-EU born and 39,000 for non-UK born. The impact on LFS economic activity estimates at national level is mostly below 0.1% and the impact on rates is less than 0.02 percentage points.

Coronavirus

View more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

View a comparison of our labour market data sources and the main differences.

Back to table of contents

12. Strengths and limitations

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.

!

The data in this bulletin come from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a survey of households. It is not practical to survey every household each quarter, so these statistics are estimates based on a large sample.

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 16 to 17 years), 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.

Comparability

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 of estimates of jobs article compares the latest workforce jobs series estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the LFS and is usually published every March. This article has been postponed until we are able to take the latest adjustments to the LFS into account.

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

Back to table of contents

Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Bob Watson
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 1633 455400