Labour market in the regions of the UK: March 2020

Regional, local authority and Parliamentary constituency breakdowns of changes in UK employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other related statistics.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Bob Watson

Release date:
17 March 2020

Next release:
21 April 2020

1. Main points

  • For the three months ending January 2020, the highest employment rate estimate in the UK was in the South East (80.0%) and the lowest was in the North East (71.7%).
  • For the three months ending January 2020, the highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK was in the North East (6.2%) and the lowest was in Northern Ireland (2.4%).
  • For the three months ending January 2020, the highest economic inactivity rate estimate in the UK was in Northern Ireland (25.9%) and the lowest was in the South East (17.3%).
  • Between September and December 2019, the largest estimated increase in workforce jobs in the UK was in London at 43,000, while the largest decrease was in the North West at 53,000.
  • In December 2019, the region with the highest estimated proportion of workforce jobs in the services sector was London at 91.5%, while the East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.2%.
  • The highest average estimated actual weekly hours worked, for the 12 months ending September 2019, was in London at 34.0 hours and the lowest was in the North East at 31.0 hours; for full-time and part-time workers it was highest for both in Northern Ireland, at 38.6 hours and 17.2 hours respectively.

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

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2. Regional labour market summary

Table 1 shows the latest estimates for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for November 2019 to January 2020 and a comparison with the previous quarter (August to October 2019). Comparing non-overlapping periods (November 2019 to January 2020 with August to October 2019) provides a more robust short-term comparison.

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3. Employment

Employment measures the number of people aged 16 years and over in paid work. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in paid work.

The employment rate estimate for people aged from 16 to 64 years for the UK was 76.5% for the period November 2019 to January 2020. This is an increase of 0.3 percentage points compared with the previous period (August to October 2019).

The UK region with the highest employment rate estimate was the South East at 80.0%. The rate in the South East is a joint record high for the region. The highest estimated rate for the same period last year was in the South West at 79.9%. The next highest employment rate estimate was seen in the South West at 79.9%, followed by the East of England at 78.4%. There was also a record high employment level and rate for London, with the rate at 76.0%.

The region with the lowest employment rate estimate was the North East at 71.7%, followed by Northern Ireland at 72.3%. The lowest estimated rate for the same period last year was in Northern Ireland at 70.9%.

The largest increase in the employment rate estimates, compared with August to October 2019, was in London at 1.2 percentage points, followed by the North East and the East Midlands, both at 0.8 percentage points. The largest decrease in the employment rate estimates, compared with August to October 2019, was for the South West at 0.9 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 0.7 percentage points.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the employment rate was the East Midlands at 2.6 percentage points, followed by the West Midlands, South East and Northern Ireland, all with an increase of 1.3 percentage points (Figure 1). Wales saw the largest decrease in the employment rate at 1.7 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber with a decrease of 1.4 percentage points. Over the year, the only region to remain largely unchanged was the South West.

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4. Workforce jobs

Workforce jobs measures the number of filled jobs in the economy. The estimates are mainly sourced from employer surveys such as the Short-Term Employment Surveys (STES) and the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES). Workforce jobs is a different concept from employment, which is sourced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), as employment is an estimate of people and some people have more than one job.

A comparison between estimates of employment and jobs article is available.

For December 2019, there were an estimated 35.83 million workforce jobs in the UK, 67,000 more than for September 2019.

Workforce jobs increased in 6 of the 12 regions of the UK between September 2019 and December 2019. The largest estimated increase of 43,000 was in London, followed by the South East at 42,000.

The largest estimated decrease was in the North West at 53,000, followed by Wales, which decreased by 27,000. Compared with the same month the previous year (December 2018), the largest estimated increase in workforce jobs was in London at 170,000. The only decrease was in Wales at 4,000 (Figure 2).

The East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.2% (Figure 3), while London had the lowest proportion at 3.1%. This is because London has primarily service-based industries within its region, such as financial and administrative sectors.

For the services sector, London had the highest proportion at 91.5%, while Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion at 78.4%. The services sector currently accounts for 83.6% of the total workforce jobs in the UK.

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5. Actual hours worked (first published 21 January 2020)

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 the period October 2018 to September 2019, the UK region with the highest estimated average actual weekly hours worked (for all workers) was London at 34.0 hours, followed by Northern Ireland at 33.6 hours. The North East had the lowest number of hours worked at 31.0 hours.

The UK region with the largest increase in the average hours worked, compared with the same period last year (October 2017 to September 2018) was the South East with an increase of 0.6 hours. The largest decrease in the average hours worked was in the North East with a decrease of 0.6 hours.

The region with the highest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs was Northern Ireland at 38.6 hours. This is an increase of 0.2 hours compared with the same period last year. The regions with the lowest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs were the North East and East of England, both at 36.1 hours. For part-time jobs, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland at 17.2 hours and the region with the lowest was the South West at 15.9 hours.

For men, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland at 38.6 hours and for women it was London at 29.8 hours. The largest difference in average hours worked between men and women was in Northern Ireland, where men worked on average 10.4 more hours per week than women. The largest change compared with the same period last year (October 2017 to September 2018) was seen for women in the South East, where the average hours worked increased by 1.1 hours to 27.2 hours. For men, the largest change was in the North East, where the average hours worked decreased by 0.8 hours to 35.0 hours per week (Figure 4).

The region with the largest difference in total hours worked between men and women was London, where men worked a total of 32.0 million more hours than women. The regions with the smallest difference were Northern Ireland and the North East, where men in both worked only 6.0 million more hours than women.

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6. 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.

Regional estimates for the unemployment rate are quite volatile, which needs to be allowed for when considering the pattern of change over time.

The unemployment rate estimate for people aged 16 years and over for the UK was 3.9% for the period November 2019 to January 2020; an increase of 0.2 percentage points compared with the previous period (August to October 2019) (Figure 5).

The highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK for November 2019 to January 2020 was for the North East at 6.2%, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 4.6%.

The region with the lowest estimated unemployment rate was Northern Ireland at 2.4%. This was followed by the South West, with an unemployment rate of 3.0%, and the South East at 3.2%.

The largest increase in the unemployment rate on the previous period (August to October 2019) was seen in Yorkshire and The Humber at 0.5 percentage points, followed by the North West at 0.4 percentage points.

The only decreases in the unemployment rate estimate were in Wales and Scotland, both at 0.2 percentage points. The West Midlands and London were largely unchanged compared with the previous period.

The region with the largest increase in the unemployment rate estimate over the year was the North East at 1.1 percentage points, followed by the North West at 0.8 percentage points. The largest decrease was in Northern Ireland at 1.1 percentage points, followed by Wales at 0.9 percentage points.

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7. 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. The estimated economic inactivity rate for people aged from 16 to 64 years for the UK was 20.4% for the period November 2019 to January 2020; a decrease of 0.4 percentage points compared with the previous period (August to October 2019).

The UK region with the highest estimated rate was Northern Ireland at 25.9%, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 23.5%. Northern Ireland also had the highest economic inactivity rate, at 26.4%, in the same period the previous year. The current estimated rate in Northern Ireland is 5.5 percentage points higher than the UK rate.

The region with the lowest estimated rate was the South East at 17.3%, followed by the South West at 17.6% (Figure 6). The inactivity rates for London and the South East are at record lows.

The region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate estimate on the previous period (August to October 2019) was the South West at 0.6 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 0.4 percentage points. The region with the largest decrease in the economic inactivity rate estimate was London at 1.3 percentage points, followed by the North East and East Midlands, both at 1.0 percentage point. Northern Ireland was the only region that was largely unchanged compared with the previous period.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate estimate was Wales at 2.5 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 2.1 percentage points. The region with the largest decrease in the inactivity rate estimate was the East Midlands at 2.1 percentage points, followed by the North West and South East, both at 1.4 percentage points.

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8. Local labour market indicators

Indicators from the Annual Population Survey (first published 21 January 2020)

For the period October 2018 to September 2019, the local authorities with the highest employment rate estimates in the UK were Hart in Hampshire at 90.3%, the Shetland Islands at 90.2% and Woking at 89.7%. Kensington and Chelsea was the local authority with the lowest rate at 62.9%, followed by Middlesbrough at 64.0%.

For the period October 2018 to September 2019, the local authorities with the highest unemployment rate estimates in the UK were Hartlepool at 8.4%, followed by Birmingham at 7.8%. The local authorities with the lowest rates were Eden in Cumbria at 1.6%, followed by South Lakeland and South Cambridgeshire, both at 1.7%.

Jobs densities

The jobs density of an area is the number of jobs per head, of resident population, aged 16 to 64 years. A high jobs density would represent an employment centre, where people commute to for work. A low jobs density would represent an area with fewer jobs, where people would commute from for work.

In 2018, the highest jobs density estimate in Great Britain was the City of London at 110.11 and the lowest was Lewisham at 0.40. Westminster (4.28) and Camden (2.17), both in London, were the next highest jobs densities. The highest jobs density estimate outside London was Watford at 1.80. After Lewisham, the lowest jobs densities were East Renfrewshire at 0.45, followed by East Dunbartonshire, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, all at 0.47.

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9. Regional labour market data

Headline Labour Force Survey indicators for all regions
Dataset HI00 | Updated 17 March 2020
Headline labour market indicators from the Labour Force Survey for all of the UK regions. These cover economic activity, employment, unemployment and economic inactivity. Datasets HI01 to HI12 provide all regional level indicators for each region of the UK.

Guide to tables in the Labour market in the regions of the UK statistical bulletin
Dataset | Updated 17 March 2020
A guide to the numbering system used for tables associated with the Regional labour market statistical bulletin. Includes links to each of the regional and sub-regional labour market datasets, which include regional data on employment, unemployment, economic activity and inactivity, Claimant Count, and Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Claimant Count by unitary and local authority (experimental)
Dataset CC01 | Updated 17 March 2020
Claimant count for people resident in local and unitary authorities, counties and regions of the UK.

Regional labour market summary
Dataset S01 | Updated 17 March 2020
Labour market indicators for countries and regions of the UK, covering employment, unemployment, Claimant Count and workforce jobs

Local indicators for counties, local and unitary authorities
Dataset LI01 | Updated 21 January 2020
Labour market indicators for local and unitary authorities, counties and regions in Great Britain for a 12-month period.

All regional labour market datasets used in this bulletin are available on the Related data page.

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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.

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 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 our Guide to labour market statistics.

Local labour market indicators

Local labour market indicators cover employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and jobs density, for sub-regional geographical areas such as local and unitary authorities, counties and regions in the UK for the most recent 12-month period available of the Annual Population Survey (APS). The jobs density of an area is the number of jobs per head, of resident population, aged 16 to 64 years.

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.

A more detailed glossary is available.

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11. Measuring the data

This bulletin shows the latest main labour market statistics for the regions and countries of the UK, along with statistics for local authorities, travel-to-work areas and Parliamentary constituencies.

Data for Northern Ireland, although included in this bulletin, are available in full separately, in the Northern Ireland Labour Market Report on the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) website. Regional and local area statistics are available from NOMIS®.

Latest updates

From this release onwards, the bulletin will be presented in a new format, which, following a review from our publishing team, has been designed in line with the Office for National Statistics’s (ONS’s) new style guide and provides a more user-friendly experience. The title of the release has also changed to “Labour market in the regions of the UK”. All previous release titles will remain unchanged but will still be linked to this new release. All data contained within the release will not change and so all data and commentary within the bulletin will still be directly comparable.

Future publication dates

Due to a public holiday in Northern Ireland, the July 2020 and July 2021 Labour Market publication dates have both been moved two days later.

This change will ensure that users across the UK have the same access to advice from the teams who produce the statistics on the day of release. For further information please see Statement on changing the release dates of ONS statistics to avoid public holidays.

21st April 2020
19th May 2020
16th June 2020
16th July 2020
11th August 2020
15th September 2020
13th October 2020
10th November 2020
15th December 2020
26th January 2021
23rd February 2021
23rd March 2021
20th April 2021
18th May 2021
15th June 2021
15th July 2021
17th August 2021
14th September 2021
12th October 2021
16th November 2021
14th December 2021

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

Data sources

This bulletin includes labour market estimates at a regional level from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) on total employment, unemployment and economic inactivity. More detailed regional estimates for employment by age, full-time and part-time working, economic activity and economic inactivity by age, and reasons for economic inactivity are provided using the Annual Population Survey (APS). Any estimates for geographical areas below regional level are provided using the APS. In tables where the APS estimates are provided for detailed geographical areas, regional and national estimates are also provided from the APS for comparability.

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a household survey using international definitions of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity. It compiles a wide range of related topics such as occupation, training, hours of work and personal characteristics of household members aged 16 years and over. Estimates are produced every month for a rolling three-monthly period; for example, February to April data in a release will be followed by data for March to May in the next release.

The Annual Population Survey (APS), which began in 2004, is compiled from interviews for the LFS, along with additional regional samples. The APS comprises the main variables from the LFS, with a much larger sample size. Consequently, the APS supports more detailed breakdowns than can be reliably produced from the LFS. Estimates are produced every quarter for a rolling annual period; for example, January to December data will be followed by data for April to March when they are next updated.

A comparison between estimates of employment and jobs is available.

Comparisons with earlier data

The most robust estimates of short-term movements in estimates derived from the Labour Force Survey are obtained by comparing the estimates for November 2019 to January 2020 with the estimates for August to October 2019, which were first published on 17 December 2019. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for October to December 2019. This is because the November and December 2019 data are included within both estimates, so observed differences are only between October 2019 and January 2020. The LFS is representative of the UK population over a three-month period, not for single-month periods.

Quality and methodology

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) reports for various labour market topics:

Further information about the Labour Force Survey (LFS) is available from the Labour Force Survey – user guide.

A Guide to labour market statistics, which includes a glossary, is also available for further information.

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12. Strengths and limitations

Strengths

We have developed a framework for labour market statistics to describe the concepts within the labour market and their relationship to each other. The framework is based on labour supply and demand. This approach has wide international acceptance, including by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The labour market statistics are used by a range of users, including central and local government, the media, trade unions and businesses. They are used for the analysis, evaluation, monitoring and planning of the labour market and economy, and are also used for social analysis and help inform a range of government policies towards population groups of concern (such as women, young people, older people and jobless households).

Accuracy and reliability

Most of the figures in this statistical bulletin come from surveys of households or businesses. Surveys gather information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed carefully to allow for this and to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints, but results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This means that they are subject to a margin of error, which can have an impact on how changes in the numbers should be interpreted, especially in the short-term.

Changes in the numbers reported in this statistical bulletin (and especially the rates) between three-month periods are usually not greater than the margin of error. In practice, this means that small, short-term movements in reported rates (for example, within plus or minus 0.3 percentage points) should be treated as indicative and considered alongside medium- and long-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in administrative sources, where available, to give a fuller picture.

Seasonal adjustment

All estimates discussed in this statistical bulletin are seasonally adjusted except where otherwise stated. Like many economic indicators, the labour market is affected by factors that tend to occur at around the same time every year; for example, school leavers entering the labour market in July and whether Easter falls in March or April. In order to compare movements other than annual changes in labour market statistics, the data are seasonally adjusted to remove the effects of seasonal factors and the arrangement of the calendar.

Revisions

One indication of the reliability of the main indicators in this bulletin can be obtained by monitoring the size of revisions. These summary measures are available in Dataset S02 Regional labour market: Sampling variability and revisions summary and show the size of revisions over the last five years.

The revised data may be subject to sampling or other sources of error. Our standard presentation is to show five years’ worth of revisions (that is, 60 observations for a monthly series, 20 for a quarterly series).

Sampling variability

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Bob Watson
Labour.Supply@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455070