Vacancies and jobs in the UK: January 2024

Estimates of the number of vacancies and jobs for the UK.

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Email Karen L Grovell

Release date:
16 January 2024

Next release:
13 February 2024

2. Main points

  • The estimated number of vacancies in October to December 2023 was 934,000, a decrease of 49,000 from July to September 2023.

  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for a record 18th consecutive period in October to December 2023, down by 5.0% since July to September 2023 with vacancies falling in 12 of the 18 industry sectors.

  • In October to December 2023, total estimated vacancies were down by 226,000 from the level of a year ago, although they remained 133,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) January to March 2020 levels.

  • The industry sectors showing the largest quarterly decreases in the number of vacancies were wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, and transport and storage, which fell by 13,000 and 9,000, respectively.

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3. Vacancies for October to December 2023

In October to December 2023, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 49,000 to 934,000, the 18th consecutive period to show a fall on the quarter and the lowest number of vacancies since April to June 2021.

The headline vacancy estimates are based on three-month averages, which naturally involve some time lag. Insights into trends in December 2023 are provided by two alternative data sources, single-month vacancy estimates (see Section 8: Strengths and limitations, in our Dataset X06, and statistics in development Adzuna Online job advert estimates. Both estimates fell in December 2023.

The estimated total number of vacancies fell by 5.0% from the previous quarter, with arts, entertainment and recreation contracting the most, falling by 31.6%, followed by transport and storage, which fell by 23.7%.

October to December 2023 continues the sequence of consecutive quarterly falls, decreasing for the 18th consecutive period. The industry sector showing the largest fall was wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, which was down by 13,000. The current period of consecutive quarterly declines in the vacancy estimates is the longest ever recorded. 

When comparing October to December 2023 with the same time last year, total vacancies decreased by 226,000 (19.4%) with falls in 17 of the 18 industry sectors. The industry that decreased the most was human health and social work, where the estimated number of vacancies fell by 37,000 (17.6%).

The total estimated number of vacancies remains 133,000 above January to March 2020 pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels, with human health and social work activities showing the largest increase, at 34,000. Five industry sectors fell below pre-coronavirus levels with the largest falls in transport and storage, and wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles both falling by an estimated 6,000 vacancies.

In October to December 2023, the ratio of vacancies per 100 employee jobs was 3.0, following a downward trend since April to June 2022 when it was at 4.1. Accommodation and food service activities currently has the highest ratio at 4.6, but follows a similar pattern, falling from 7.2 over the same period.

While all size bands fell on the quarter, the smallest size band decreased the most, falling by 8.5%.

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4. Jobs, vacancies, and wider labour market measures

The workforce jobs estimates are provided from various sources. Employee jobs in the private sector are drawn from surveys relating to a reference date of 15 September 2023. Self-employment job estimates for September 2023 have been projected because of the unavailability of data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS); this is outlined in the estimates used for projections in workforce jobs in Section 7: Measuring the data.

Our estimated number of workforce jobs for September 2023 (next updated March 2024) was a record 36.8 million, an increase of 210,000 jobs since June 2023. The estimated number of workforce jobs is 1.1 million above its December 2019 pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level.

The total number of jobs includes both employee jobs and self-employment jobs with the former causing the quarterly increase. Employee jobs increased by 179,000 on the quarter to September 2023, rising to a record high of 32.5 million and are 1.8 million above their December 2019 pre-coronavirus levels. Self-employment jobs estimates have not displayed the same levels of growth and remain 625,000 below those of a pre-coronavirus December 2019. The growth in the employee jobs component of workforce jobs up to September 2023 can also be seen in the number of payrolled employees reported in our Earnings and employment from Pay As You Earn Real Time Information, seasonally adjusted dataset, which has shown a similar growth pattern over the same period.

Across industries, the recovery has varied, with 8 of the 20 sectors still below their pre-coronavirus levels in September 2023. The sectors showing the largest increases in job numbers were human health and social work, which was up 395,000 and accommodation and food service activities, which was up 291,000. These gains were slightly offset by job losses in wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, which remain 253,000 below December 2019 levels.

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5. Vacancies and jobs data

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 16 January 2024
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 12 December 2023
Estimates of jobs by type of job (including employee jobs, self-employment jobs, HM Forces and government-supported trainees).

Workforce jobs by industry
Dataset JOBS02 | Released 12 December 2023
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

X06:Single month vacancies estimates (not designated as National Statistics)
Dataset X06 | Released 16 January 2024
Single Month Vacancy Survey estimates, not seasonally adjusted

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6. Glossary


Positions for which employers are actively seeking recruits from outside their business or organisation are defined as vacancies. The estimates are based on the Vacancy Survey; this is a survey of employers 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).


An activity performed for an employer or customer by a worker in exchange for payment, usually in cash, or in kind, or both, is defined as a job. The number of jobs is not the same as the number of people in employment. This is because a person can have more than one job. The number of jobs is the sum of employee jobs from employer surveys, self-employment jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), those in HM Forces and government-supported trainees. The number of people in employment is measured by the LFS; these estimates are available in our Employment in the UK releases.

A more detailed glossary is available.

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7. Measuring the data

Estimates used for projections in workforce jobs

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) data that are required to produce elements of the workforce jobs statistics are not available for September 2023. Statistics for self-employment jobs, employee jobs (industries A and T) and English government-supported trainees are estimated using projections. Projections were derived using exponential smoothing, which can be thought of as a weighted average of past values. There is an increased level of uncertainty associated with projected estimates. For more information, see our Update on the LFS.

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, we will initially publish the tables in both the new and current formats. If you have any questions or comments, please email


For more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see our article published on 6 May 2020, Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics, which details some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.

For a comparison of our labour market data sources and discussion of some of the main differences, see our Comparison of labour market data sources methodology, published on 11 December 2020.

Workforce Jobs estimates include data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). From 15 July 2021, an improved LFS weighting methodology, better accounting for population changes through the coronavirus pandemic was implemented, affecting periods from January to March 2020 onwards. For more information, please see our LFS Survey weighting methodology.


The data in this bulletin come from surveys of businesses. It is not feasible to survey every business in the UK, so these statistics are estimates based on samples, not precise figures.


Estimates of vacancies are obtained from the Vacancy Survey, a survey of employers. Adzuna Online job advert estimates are also published as part of our Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators bulletin.


Estimates of jobs are compiled from a number of sources, including Short-Term Employment Surveys (STES), the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Surveys (QPSES) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS). STES is a group of surveys that collect employment and turnover information from private sector businesses. In December of each year, the jobs estimates are "benchmarked" to the latest estimates from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES).

Further information on revisions to the LFS are explained in our Impact of reweighting on Labour Force Survey key indicators article.

The STES estimates are drawn for a specified date early in the last month of each calendar quarter. The March 2020 data were from 13 March 2020 before the start of coronavirus (COVID-19) social-distancing measures.

For more information on how jobs data are measured, please see the Measuring the Data section in our previous Vacancies and jobs in the UK bulletin from April 2021.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Vacancy Survey QMI and in our Workforce jobs QMI.

Sampling variability

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is plus or minus 1.3% of that level expressed as a coefficient of variation, giving a 95% confidence interval for estimates of approximately plus or minus 32,000.

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level, for a typical industrial sector is around plus or minus 6% of that level.

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8. Strengths and limitations

Information on the strengths and limitations of this bulletin are available in our Vacancies and jobs in the UK: April 2021 bulletin.

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10. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 16 January 2024, ONS website, statistical bulletin, UK Labour market: January 2024

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Karen L Grovell
Telephone: +44 1633 456103