1. Main points

For the 3 months ending January 2017, the highest employment rate in the UK was in the South East (78.5%) and the lowest was in Northern Ireland (69.4%). The employment rate estimates for those aged 16 to 64 for November 2016 to January 2017 compared with August to October 2016, showed few large movements for the regions and countries of the UK.

For the 3 months ending January 2017, the highest unemployment rate in the UK was in the North East (6.8%) and the lowest was in the South East (3.5%). The unemployment rate estimates for November 2016 to January 2017 compared with August to October 2016, are showing few large changes for the regions of the UK.

For the 3 months ending January 2017, the highest economic inactivity rate in the UK was in Northern Ireland (26.2%) and the lowest was in the South East (18.6%). The largest change in the economic inactivity rate, compared with the same period last year, was in Scotland, which increased by 1.9 percentage points.

Between September 2016 and December 2016, the largest increase in workforce jobs in the UK was in the East of England, at 33,000. The largest decrease was in the South East at 11,000.

In December 2016, the region with the highest proportion of workforce jobs in the service sector was London at 92.2%, which had decreased by 0.3 percentage points since September 2016. The East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.7%.

The highest average actual weekly hours worked, for the 12 months ending September 2016, was in London at 33.5 hours and lowest in the South West at 31.3 hours. For full-time workers, it was highest in London at 38.2 hours and for part-time workers it was highest in Northern Ireland at 17.1 hours.

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2. In this bulletin

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 separately, in full, in the Northern Ireland Labour Market Report on the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) website.

Updated this month

Labour Force Survey estimates for the period November 2016 to January 2017
Public and private sector employment for December 2016
Workforce jobs estimates for December 2016

Also in this release

Annual Population Survey estimates for the period October 2015 to September 2016

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3. Summary of latest regional labour market statistics

Table 1 shows the latest estimates for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for November 2016 to January 2017 and a comparison with the previous quarter (August to October 2016). Comparing non-overlapping periods (November 2016 to January 2017 with August to October 2016) provides a more robust short-term comparison.

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4. Understanding and working with labour market statistics

Labour market statistics measure many different aspects of work and jobs and provide an insight into the economy. They are also very much about people, including their participation in the labour force, the types of work they do, the earnings and benefits they receive and their working patterns.

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.

Labour supply consists of people who are employed, as well as those people defined as unemployed or economically inactive, who are considered to be potential labour supply. Our framework distinguishes between these 3 categories of worker, and also between the different working arrangements of those in employment such as employees, the self-employed and those on government schemes.

Labour demand is represented by employers, who have a need for work to be done, and who offer compensation for this work to the employees who undertake it. Employers group this work to form jobs.

This approach has wide international acceptance, including by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Users of labour market statistics include central and local government, economists, financial analysts, journalists, businesses, trade unions, employer associations, students, teachers, industrial tribunals, academic researchers and lobby groups.

They use them for the analysis, evaluation, monitoring and planning of the labour market and economy. Labour market statistics are also used for social analysis and help inform a wide range of government policies towards population groups of particular concern (women, young people, older people and jobless households).

Labour market statuses

Everybody aged 16 or over is either employed, unemployed or economically inactive. The employment estimates include all people in work including those working part-time. People not working are classed as unemployed if they have been looking for work within the last 4 weeks and are able to start work within the next 2 weeks. A common misconception is that the unemployment statistics are a count of people on benefits; this is not the case as they include unemployed people not claiming benefits.

Jobless people who have not been looking for work within the last 4 weeks or who are unable to start work within the next 2 weeks are classed as economically inactive. Examples of economically inactive people include people not looking for work because they are students, looking after the family or home, because of illness or disability, or because they have retired.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

What is the relationship between the Annual Population Survey (APS) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS)?

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a household survey using international definitions of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity and 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 3-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.

This bulletin includes labour market estimates at a regional level from the 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 APS. Any estimates for geographic areas below regional level are provided using the APS. In tables where APS estimates are provided for detailed geographic areas, regional and national estimates are also provided from APS for comparability.

Making comparisons with earlier data

The most robust estimates of short-term movements in estimates derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) are obtained by comparing the estimates for November 2016 to January 2017 with the estimates for August to October 2016, which were first published on 14 December 2016. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for October to December 2016. This is because the November and December data are included within both estimates, so observed differences are only between October 2016 and January 2017. The LFS is representative of the UK population over a 3-month period, not for single month periods.

Accuracy and reliability of survey estimates

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 3-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.

Further information is available in Quality information, in the Quality and methodology section.

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.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

Where to find explanatory information

We have produced a number of items to help aid understanding and highlight common misunderstandings of labour market statistics, all of which are available on our website:

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5. Employment

Employment measures the number of people in work; it differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job.

Employment consists of employees, self-employed people, unpaid family workers and people on government-supported training and employment programmes. Unpaid family workers are people who work in a family business who do not receive a formal wage or salary but benefit from the profits of that business. The government-supported training and employment programmes series does not include all people on these programmes; it only includes people engaging in any form of work, work experience or work-related training who are not included in the employees or self-employed series. People on these programmes not engaging in any form of work, work experience or work-related training are not included in the employment estimates; they are classified as unemployed or economically inactive.

An article comparison between estimates of employment and jobs is available on our website.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

Regional employment

The employment rate for people aged from 16 to 64 for the UK was 74.6% for the period November 2016 to January 2017. This is an increase of 0.2 percentage points compared with the previous period (August to October 2016).

The UK region with the highest employment rate was the South East at 78.5%, followed by the South West at 78.2% and the East of England at 76.6%. The highest rate for the same period last year was in the East of England and the South East, both at 77.9%.

The region with the lowest employment rate was Northern Ireland at 69.4%, followed by the North East at 70.7% and the West Midlands at 72.4%. The lowest rate for the same period last year was also in Northern Ireland at 68.9%.

The largest increase in the employment rate estimates compared with the previous period (August to October 2016) was for the South West, at 0.9 percentage points, followed by the North West, at 0.6 percentage points. Neither of these increases is particularly large, with both regions showing a pattern of relatively flat employment rates over recent periods.

The largest decrease in the employment rate estimates were for Yorkshire and The Humber and the West Midlands, both at just 0.4 percentage points, followed by the North East and London, both at 0.2 percentage points. After some recent volatility in estimates, the regions now generally have flat or very slowly increasing employment rates.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the employment rate was Wales, with an increase of 1.6 percentage points, followed by the East Midlands and West Midlands, both with an increase of 1.3 percentage points.

The East of England had the largest decrease in the employment rate at 1.3 percentage points, followed by Scotland at 0.7 percentage points.

Where to find data about employment

Employment estimates are available for each region in Dataset HI00 – Headline LFS indicators for all UK regions and HI01 to HI12 – Headline indicators for individual UK regions (Tabs 1 and 2), and Datasets LI01 to LI05 Local indicators for sub-regional areas of Great Britain, for this and further estimate breakdowns by age or geographies.

These tables contain data produced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS). A note in the section Understanding and working with labour market statistics on the relationship between the LFS and APS entitled What is the relationship between the APS and the LFS? is included in this bulletin.

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6. 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 1 job.

A comparison between estimates of employment and jobs article is published on our website.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

The service sector consists of the following industries:

  • wholesale and retail trade
  • repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles, transport and storage
  • accommodation and food service activities
  • information and communication
  • financial and insurance activities
  • real estate activities
  • professional, scientific and technical activities
  • administrative and support service activities
  • public administration and defence
  • compulsory social security
  • education
  • human health and social work activities
  • arts, entertainment and recreation
  • other service activities
  • people employed by households

The production sector consists of the following industries:

  • mining and quarrying
  • manufacturing
  • electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply
  • water supply, sewerage, waste and remediation activities

The “other” sector consists of agriculture, forestry, and fishing and construction industries.

The Northern Ireland self-employed component of the workforce jobs is published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) as part of the Economic and Labour Market Statistics.

Regional workforce jobs

Workforce jobs increased in 7 of the 12 regions of the UK between September 2016 and December 2016. The largest increase of 33,000 was in the East of England, followed by the East Midlands, which increased by 26,000.

The largest decrease was in the South East, which decreased by 11,000, followed by the North West and the West Midlands, which both decreased by 8,000.

Compared with the same month last year (December 2015), the largest increase in workforce jobs was in London, with an increase of 106,000. The only decrease was in Wales, at 6,000.

The East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector, at 13.7%, while London had the lowest proportion, at 2.8%. This is due to London having primarily service-based industries within its region, such as financial and administrative sectors.

For the service sector, London had the highest proportion, at 92.2%, whilst Wales had the lowest proportion at 77.8%. The service sector currently accounts for 83.6% of the total workforce jobs in the UK.

Where to find data about workforce jobs

Workforce jobs estimates are available for each region in Datasets HI01 to HI12 – Headline indicators for individual UK regions (Tabs 4 and 5).

While comparable estimates for workforce jobs by industry begin in 1978, there is information back to 1841, based on census data (not comparable with the latest estimates), available from 2011 Census Analysis on our website.

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7. Actual hours worked

Actual hours worked measures the number of hours worked in the economy. Changes in actual hours worked reflect changes in the number of people in employment and the average hours worked by those people.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

Regional actual hours worked (first published 18 January 2017)

For the period October 2015 to September 2016, the UK region with the highest average actual weekly hours worked (for all workers) was London at 33.5 hours, followed by Northern Ireland at 32.9 hours. The South West had the lowest number of hours worked at 31.3 hours.

The UK region with the largest increase in the average hours worked, compared with the same period last year (October 2014 to September 2015) was the South East, with an increase of 0.4 hours, a percentage increase of 1.4%. This was followed by the West Midlands and London, both with an increase of 0.2 hours (percentage increases of 0.5% and 0.7% respectively). The largest decrease in the average hours worked was in Northern Ireland, with a decrease of 0.7 hours (2.0%).

The region with the highest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs was London, at 38.2 hours. This represents an increase of 0.3 hours and a percentage increase of 0.8%, compared with the same period last year. The lowest was Scotland at 36.4 hours, which has decreased by 0.2 hours, a percentage decrease of 0.5%. For part-time jobs, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland at 17.1 hours and the lowest was the South West at 15.6 hours.

For men, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland, at 38.3 hours and for women it was London, at 28.8 hours. The largest difference in average hours worked between men and women was in Northern Ireland, where men worked on average 11.5 more hours a week than women. The largest change compared with the same period last year (October 2014 to September 2015), was seen for women in the South East, where the average hours worked increased by 2.2%: increasing from 26.1 hours to 26.7 hours and Northern Ireland, where the average hours worked decreased by 2.2%: decreasing from 27.4 hours to 26.8 hours per week.

The region with the largest difference in total hours worked between men and women was London, where men worked a total of 34.0 million more hours than women. The region with the smallest difference was Northern Ireland, where men worked only 6.0 million more hours than women.

Where to find data about hours worked

Hours worked estimates are available for each region in Datasets HI01 to HI12 – Headline indicators for individual UK regions (Tab 6). These estimates are based on data from the Annual Population Survey (APS).

The national data is also available at the UK labour market statistical bulletin in Datasets Hour1-Actual weekly hours worked (seasonally adjusted) and Hour2–Usual weekly hours worked (seasonally adjusted). These estimates are based on data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

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8. Unemployment

Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last 4 weeks and are available to start work within the next 2 weeks.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

Regional unemployment

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 for people aged 16 and over for the UK was 4.7%, for the period November 2016 to January 2017. This has decreased by 0.1 percentage points compared with the previous period (August to October 2016).

The UK region with the highest unemployment rate was the North East at 6.8%. This was also the region with the highest rate for the same period last year at 7.8%. The next highest rates were seen in Northern Ireland, at 5.7%, the West Midlands and London, both at 5.6%. The region with the lowest rate was the South East at 3.5%, followed by the South West at 3.6%.

Allowing for some individual volatility, the overall pattern for the last few years has been for gently falling unemployment rates.

The region with the largest decrease in the unemployment rate on the previous period (August to October 2016), was Scotland at 0.6 percentage points, followed by the North West at 0.5 percentage points.

The largest increase in the unemployment rate on the previous period (August to October 2016), was seen in the North East and West Midlands, both at 0.3 percentage points.

The majority of regions are showing decreases in the unemployment rate compared with a year ago, with the exception of the East of England and West Midlands, which increased by 0.8 and 0.1 percentage points respectively. The largest decreases were in Scotland at 1.4 percentage points, followed by the North East, at 1.0 percentage points.

We are currently unable to produce the interactive chart relating to unemployment rate by government region, due to compatibility issues. We aim to develop an improved version of this in the near future.

Where to find data about unemployment

Unemployment estimates are available for each region in Dataset HI00 – Headline LFS indicators for all UK regions and HI01 to HI12 – Headline indicators for individual UK regions (Tab 2(2)), and Datasets LI01 to LI05 – Local indicators for sub-regional areas of Great Britain, for further estimate breakdowns by age or geographies.

These tables contain data produced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS). A note in the section Understanding and working with Labour Market Statistics on the relationship between the LFS and APS entitled What is the relationship between the APS and the LFS? is included in this bulletin.

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9. Economic inactivity

Economically inactive people 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 4 weeks and/or they are unable to start work within the next 2 weeks.

A Glossary of Labour Market terms is also available.

Regional economic inactivity

The economic inactivity rate for people aged from 16 to 64 for the UK was 21.6%, for the period November 2016 to January 2017. This is a decrease of 0.1 percentage points compared with the previous period (August to October 2016). The UK region with the highest rate was Northern Ireland at 26.2%, followed by the North East at 24.1%. The region with the lowest rate was the South East at 18.6%, followed by the South West at 18.8% and the East of England at 19.8%.

The region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate on the previous period (August to October 2016) was Yorkshire and The Humber, with an increase of 0.5 percentage points, followed by the West Midlands and the East of England, both with an increase of 0.2 percentage points. The South West had the largest decrease in the rate, of 0.8 percentage points, followed by the South East, with a decrease of 0.5 percentage points. There were 5 regions that saw no change in their inactivity rate, compared with the previous period.

Over the year from November 2015 to January 2016 to November 2016 to January 2017, the region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate was Scotland, with an increase of 1.9 percentage points, followed by the East of England, with an increase of 0.7 percentage points. The largest decrease in the rate was in the West Midlands, at 1.5 percentage points, followed by the East Midlands, at 1.1 percentage points.

Northern Ireland also had the highest economic inactivity rate at 26.5%, in the same period in 2016. The current rate is now 4.6 percentage points higher than the UK rate.

Where to find data about economic inactivity

Economic inactivity estimates are available for each region at Dataset HI00 – Headline LFS indicators for all UK regions and HI01 to HI12 – Headline indicators for individual UK regions (Tabs 10 and 11), and Datasets LI01 to LI05 – Local indicators for sub-regional areas of Great Britain, for further estimate breakdowns by age, reason or geographies.

These tables contain data produced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS). A note in the section Understanding and working with labour market statistics on the relationship between the LFS and APS entitled What is the relationship between the APS and the LFS? is included in this bulletin.

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10. Local labour market indicators

Local labour market indicators cover employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and jobs density, for sub-regional geographic 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.

Indicators from the Annual Population Survey (first published 18 January 2017)

For the period October 2015 to September 2016, the local authorities with the highest employment rates in Great Britain were Stroud at 89.0%, Erewash at 88.3%, Epsom and Ewell at 87.7% and Selby at 87.2%. Rochdale is the local authority with the lowest rate at 61.7%, followed by Birmingham at 61.9% and Leicester at 62.5%. For the same period last year, the highest rates were in Rushmore at 88.0% and Winchester at 87.7%.

For the period October 2015 to September 2016, the local authorities with the highest unemployment rates in Great Britain were Birmingham at 9.4%, followed by Hartlepool at 9.3%. The local authorities with the lowest rates were Uttlesford at 2.0%, followed by Eden in Cumbria at 2.1% and South Northamptonshire, Harborough and Stratford-on-Avon, all at 2.2%. These were followed by a further 34 local authorities all under 3.0%. For the same period last year, there were 46 local authorities with a rate of less than 3.0%.

Jobs densities (first published 18 January 2017)

The jobs density of an area is the number of jobs per head, of resident population, aged 16 to 64. In 2015, the highest jobs density in Great Britain was the City of London at 84.29 and the lowest was Lewisham at 0.40. Westminster (4.30) and Camden (2.23), both in London, were the next highest jobs densities. The highest jobs density outside London was the Isles of Scilly at 2.01. After Lewisham, the lowest jobs densities were East Renfrewshire at 0.43, followed by East Dunbartonshire at 0.45 and Waltham Forest at 0.46.

Where to find data about local labour market indicators

Annual Population Survey (APS) estimates are available at Datasets LI01 to LI05 – Local indicators for sub-regional areas of Great Britain and Claimant Count estimates are available at Datasets CC01 – Claimant Count by unitary and local authority and CC02 – Claimant Count by parliamentary constituency, CC02.1 – Claimant Count for constituencies of the Scottish Parliament, and CC03 – Claimant Count for Local Enterprise Partnerships in this statistical bulletin.

These tables contain data produced from the APS. A note in the section Understanding and working with labour market statistics entitled What is the relationship between the APS and the LFS? is included in this bulletin

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11. Where to find more information about labour market statistics

Other datasets within the regional labour market release:

Other regularly published labour market releases:

We have also produced:

Historic articles published in Economic and Labour Market Review and Labour Market Trends

Articles about labour market statistics were published in Labour Market Trends (up until 2006) and in Economic and Labour Market Review (from 2007 to 2011). Editions of Labour Market Trends are available from July 2001 until January 2006, when the publication was discontinued. Editions of Economic and Labour Market Review are available from the first edition, published in February 2007, up until the last edition, published in May 2011.

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12. Quality and methodology

Quality information

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 spreadsheet and show the size of revisions over the last 5 years.

The revised data may be subject to sampling or other sources of error. Our standard presentation is to show 5 years’ worth of revisions (that is, 60 observations for a monthly series, 20 for a quarterly series). Further information on the quality of and methods for workforce jobs estimates can be found in the quality and methodology information report.

Other quality information

The Quality and Methodology Information documents for labour market statistics contain important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • users and uses of the data
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

Labour market Quality and Methodology Information
Labour Force Survey Quality and Methodology Information
Vacancy Survey Quality and Methodology Information
Workforce Jobs Quality and Methodology Information
Average weekly earnings (AWE) Quality and Methodology Information

Further information about the Labour Force Survey (LFS) is available from:

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13 .Background notes

  1. Changes in this month’s bulletin

    Estimates of the Claimant Count are no longer included in this statistical bulletin as they may now be providing a misleading representation of the UK labour market. However Claimant Count data continues to be available in table 7s in the Headline Indicators datasets and tables CC01, CC02, CC02.1 and CC03 on our website and on the NOMIS website. Further information is available in a statement on our website.

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the UK Statistics Authority website.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Bob Watson
subnational.labour.market@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455070