Labour market in the regions of the UK: September 2020

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

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Contact:
Email Bob Watson

Release date:
15 September 2020

Next release:
13 October 2020

1. Main points

  • For the three months ending July 2020, the highest employment rate estimate in the UK was in the South East (79.6%) and the lowest was in Northern Ireland (71.5%).
  • For the three months ending July 2020, the highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK was in the North East (5.2%) and the lowest was in Northern Ireland (2.9%).
  • For the three months ending July 2020, the highest economic inactivity rate estimate in the UK was in Northern Ireland (26.3%) and the lowest was in the South East (17.4%).
  • Between March and June 2020, workforce jobs decreased in all regions of the UK, with the largest decrease in London at 104,000 and the smallest in Northern Ireland at 1,000.
  • In June 2020, the region with the highest estimated proportion of workforce jobs in the services sector was London at 92.0%, while the East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.1%.
  • The highest average estimated actual weekly hours worked, for the 12 months ending March 2020, was in London at 33.3 hours and the lowest was in the North East at 30.5 hours; for full-time workers, it was highest in Northern Ireland, at 37.8 hours and for part-time workers it was highest in both the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber, at 16.8 hours.

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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. Coronavirus and measuring regional labour market

Coronavirus and Labour Force Survey estimates

Labour Force Survey estimates presented in this bulletin are based on interviews that took place throughout the period from the start of May to the end of July 2020. All the interviews relate to the period after the implementation of coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing measures. Interviews relate to the period following the government closure of schools, introduction of lockdown and announcement of measures aimed at protecting businesses and jobs.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) definition of employment includes those who worked in a job for at least one hour and those temporarily absent from a job. Workers furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or 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 ILO definition.

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3. Regional labour market summary

Table 1 shows the latest estimates for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for May to July 2020 and a comparison with the previous quarter (February to April 2020). Comparing non-overlapping periods (May to July 2020 with February to April 2020) provides a more robust short-term comparison.

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4. Employment

Employment measures the number of people aged 16 years and over in paid work and those who had a job that they were temporarily away from. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment.

The employment rate estimate for people aged between 16 and 64 years for the UK was 76.5% for the period May to July 2020. This is an increase of 0.1 percentage point compared with the previous quarter (February to April 2020).

The UK region with the highest employment rate estimate was the South East at 79.6%. The highest estimated rate for the same period last year was in the South West at 80.8%. The next highest employment rate estimate for the current period May to July 2020 is the East of England at 78.2%, followed by the South West at 77.8%. London saw a record high employment rate for the region, at 77.0%.

The region with the lowest employment rate estimate was Northern Ireland at 71.5%, followed by Scotland at 74.3%. The lowest estimated rate for the same period last year was in the North East at 71.1%.

The largest increase in the employment rate estimate, compared with February to April 2020, was in Yorkshire and The Humber at 0.8 percentage points, followed by the North East, the West Midlands and London, all at 0.7 percentage points. The largest decreases in the employment rate estimate, compared with February to April 2020, were in the East Midlands and the South West, both at 1.2 percentage points, followed by Northern Ireland at 0.1 percentage point. These were the only three regions of the UK that saw a decrease in the employment rate.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the employment rate estimate was the North East at 3.5 percentage points, followed by London with an increase of 2.7 percentage points. The South West saw the largest decrease in the estimated employment rate at 3.0 percentage points, followed by the East of England with a decrease of 1.0 percentage point (Figure 1). Wales was the only region of the UK where the employment rate was largely unchanged on the year.

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5. 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.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the LFS and workforce jobs (WFJ) series may have additional differences because a person’s perception of their attachment to a job may differ from the business’s perception of that job. It is also important to note that the LFS is based on interviews throughout the coverage period, whereas the WFJ series relate to a specific date. This difference can be significant in a labour market that is experiencing rapid changes.

For June 2020, there were an estimated 35.41 million workforce jobs in the UK; this is 264,000 less than a year ago (June 2019) and 354,000 less than last quarter (March 2020).

Workforce jobs increased in 6 of the 12 regions of the UK between June 2019 and June 2020. The largest estimated increase of 25,000 was in Yorkshire and The Humber, followed by London at 14,000. The largest estimated decrease was seen in the South East, at 125,000, followed by the West Midlands at 74,000 (Figure 2). Compared with last quarter (March 2020), all regions of the UK saw a decrease in workforce jobs, the largest being in London at 104,000, followed by the East of England, at 69,000 and the North West at 40,000.

For June 2020, the East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.1% (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 92.0%, while Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion at 77.8%. The services sector currently accounts for 83.8% of the total workforce jobs in the UK.

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6. Actual hours worked (first published 16 July 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 April 2019 to March 2020, the UK region with the highest estimated average actual weekly hours worked (for all workers) was London at 33.3 hours, followed by Northern Ireland at 33.1 hours. The North East had the lowest number of hours worked at 30.5 hours.

The UK region with the largest increase in the average hours worked, compared with the same period of the previous year (April 2018 to March 2019), was the South East with an increase of 0.4 hours. The largest decrease in the average hours worked was in the North East with a decrease of 1.1 hours.

The region with the highest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs was Northern Ireland at 37.8 hours. This is a decrease of 0.8 hours compared with the same period of the previous year (April 2018 to March 2019). The regions with the lowest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs were the North East and East of England, both at 35.3 hours. For part-time jobs, the regions with the highest average hours worked were the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber, both at 16.8 hours and the region with the lowest was the South West at 15.7 hours.

For men, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland at 37.7 hours and for women, it was London at 29.1 hours. The largest difference in average hours worked between men and women was in the East Midlands where men worked on average 9.9 more hours per week than women (Figure 4).

The largest overall change compared with the same period of the previous year (April 2018 to March 2019) was seen for men in the North East, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the average hours worked in each region decreased by 1.3 hours to 34.4, 35.1 and 37.7 hours per week, respectively. In comparison, for women, the largest change was in the South East, where the average hours worked increased by 1.0 hour to 27.5 hours per week.

The region with the largest difference in total weekly hours worked between men and women was London, where men worked a total of 31.0 million more hours a week than women. The regions with the smallest difference were the North East and Northern Ireland, where men worked only 6.0 million more hours a week than women. Scotland saw the largest decrease in total weekly hours worked compared with the same period of the previous year (April 2018 to March 2019), down 2.1 million hours to 83.0 million hours a week, while the South East saw the largest increase in total hours with an increase of 4.8 million hours to 149.0 million hours a week.

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7. 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 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 4.1% for the period May to July 2020; this is an increase of 0.2 percentage points compared with the previous quarter (February to April 2020) (Figure 5).

The UK region with the highest unemployment rate estimate for May to July 2020 was the North East at 5.2%, followed by London at 5.0%.

The region with the lowest estimated unemployment rate was Northern Ireland at 2.9%. This was followed by Wales at 3.1% and the North West and the South East, both at 3.5%; the rate for the North West was a joint record low unemployment rate for the region.

The largest increase in the unemployment rate estimate on the previous quarter (February to April 2020) was seen in the South West at 0.8 percentage points, followed by the East Midlands at 0.7 percentage points.

The largest decrease in the unemployment rate estimate was in the North West at 0.6 percentage points. This was followed by the West Midlands, the only other region to see a decrease, at 0.4 percentage points. The North East was the only region to remain largely unchanged compared with the previous quarter.

As with the quarterly comparison, the region with the largest increase in the unemployment rate estimate over the year was in the South West, with an increase of 1.4 percentage points. This was followed by the East of England, the South East and Scotland, all at 0.7 percentage points. The largest decrease, as was seen on the quarter, was in the North West at 0.8 percentage points, followed by Wales at 0.7 percentage points. Northern Ireland was largely unchanged compared with the same period last year.

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8. 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 between 16 and 64 years for the UK was 20.2% for the period May to July 2020; this is a decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared with the previous quarter (February to April 2020).

The UK region with the highest estimated rate was Northern Ireland at 26.3%, followed by Wales at 22.9%. Northern Ireland also had the highest economic inactivity rate, at 25.8%, in the same period the previous year. The current estimated rate in Northern Ireland is 6.1 percentage points higher than the UK rate. The region with the lowest estimated rate was the South East at 17.4%, followed by the East of England at 18.6% (Figure 6). The North East had a joint record low economic activity rate for the region of 21.4% and London a record low of 18.9%.

The region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate estimate on the previous quarter (February to April 2020) was the East Midlands at 0.6 percentage points, followed by the South West at 0.5 percentage points and the North West at 0.2 percentage points.

All other regions saw a decrease in the economic inactivity rate estimate compared with the previous quarter (February to April 2020), with the largest decrease in Yorkshire and The Humber and London, both at 0.9 percentage points, followed by the North East at 0.7 percentage points.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate estimate was the South West at 1.7 percentage points, followed by Wales at 0.6 percentage points. The region with the largest decrease in the inactivity rate estimate compared with last year (May to July 2019) was the North East at 3.6 percentage points, followed by London at 3.1 percentage points.

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9. Local labour market indicators

Indicators from the Annual Population Survey (first published 16 July 2020)

For the period April 2019 to March 2020, the local authorities with the highest employment rate estimates in the UK were Torridge at 91.4%, Cannock Chase at 90.6% and Wellingborough at 89.9%. East Lindsey was the local authority with the lowest rate at 63.3%, followed by Barrow-in-Furness at 63.6% and Chesterfield and Tendring, both at 64.3%.

For the period April 2019 to March 2020, the local authorities with the highest unemployment rate estimates in the UK were Birmingham at 9.0%, followed by Hartlepool at 7.5% and South Tyneside and Middlesbrough, both at 6.9%. The local authorities with the lowest rates were the Orkney Islands at 1.6%, followed by Eden in Cumbria at 1.7% and South Lakeland and Guildford, both at 1.8%.

Jobs densities (first published 21 January 2020)

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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10. Regional labour market data

Headline Labour Force Survey indicators for all regions
Dataset HI00 | Released 15 September 2020
Headline labour market indicators from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 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.

Claimant Count by unitary and local authority (experimental)
Dataset CC01 | Released 15 September 2020
Claimant Count for people resident in local and unitary authorities, counties, and regions of the UK.

Regional labour market summary
Dataset S01 | Released 15 September 2020
Labour market indicators for countries and regions of the UK, covering employment, unemployment, Claimant Count and workforce jobs.

Local indicators for counties and local and unitary authorities
Dataset LI01 | Released 16 July 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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11. 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 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. 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 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 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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12. 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 the March 2020 release, this bulletin has been presented in a new format, which, following a review from our publishing team, has been designed in line with the Office for National Statistics’ (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 have remained unchanged but are still linked to the new release. All data contained within the release have not changed, so all data and commentary within the bulletin are still directly comparable.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In response to the developing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are working to ensure that we continue to publish economic statistics. For more information, please see COVID-19 and the production of statistics.

We have reviewed all publications and data published as part of the labour market release in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to the postponement of some publications and datasets to ensure that we can continue to publish our main labour market data. This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of the coronavirus.

For more information on how labour market data sources, among others, will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the statement published on 27 March 2020. A further article published on 6 May 2020, detailed some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.

Our latest data and analysis on the impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy and population is available on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage.

Impact on production of workforce job estimates

Because of social distancing measures leading to the temporary closure of businesses across the UK, there have been some difficulties in collecting data using the Short Term Employment Survey. Survey response rates were lower than is typical. To protect the quality of our output, we have used alternative sources where possible to inform data. We have used Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) section level indications from the Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey (BICS), as well as survey contributor-level comments provided to us over the telephone or electronically, as a guide on whether businesses are operational and likely, or not, to be actively recruiting and to confirm employment figures.

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 Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with 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 geographic areas below regional level are provided using the APS. In tables where the APS estimates are provided for detailed geographic areas, regional and national estimates are also provided from the APS for comparability.

The 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, based on interviews that took place throughout the three months; for example, February to April data in a release will be followed by data for March to May in the next release.

The 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 LFS are obtained by comparing the estimates for May to July 2020 with the estimates for February to April 2020, which were first released on 16 June 2020. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for April to June 2020. This is because the May and June 2020 data are included within both estimates, so observed differences are only between April and July 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 LFS is available from the LFS – user guidance.

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

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13. Strengths and limitations

Uncertainty in this data

The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty. There are many sources of uncertainty, but the main sources in the information presented include each of the following.

Due to Covid-19 and the suspension of face to face interviewing on 17 March, we had to make operational changes to the Labour Force Survey, particularly in the way that we contact households for interview which moved to a ‘by telephone’ approach. These changes have resulted in a response where certain characteristics have not been as well represented as previously. This is evidenced in a change in the balance of type of household that we are reaching. In particular, the proportion of households where people own their homes in the sample has increased and rented accommodation households has decreased. At this point in time we cannot fully quantify this, but initial analysis produced by introducing weighting by tenure type, indicate that our headline figures might be slightly impacted by the changes, but within the bounds of statistical variation. Further investigations are being carried out and will be presented in the form of an article.

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. They 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. 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 455 070