Labour market overview, UK: September 2019

Estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

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This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Debra Leaker

Release date:
10 September 2019

Next release:
15 October 2019

1. Other pages in this release

Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:

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2. Main points for May to July 2019

  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%; this is the joint-highest on record since comparable records began in 1971, and higher than a year earlier (75.5%).

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%; this is lower than a year earlier (4.0%) and unchanged on the quarter.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.8%; this is lower than a year earlier (21.2%) and unchanged on the quarter.

  • Estimated annual growth in average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased to 4.0% for total pay (including bonuses), and fell to 3.8% for regular pay (excluding bonuses).

  • In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), annual growth in total pay is estimated to be 2.1% and annual growth in regular pay is estimated to be 1.9%.

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The data in this bulletin come from surveys of households and businesses. It is not possible to survey every household and business each month, so these statistics are estimates based on samples.

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3. Analysis of the labour market

Employment

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

Estimated employment rates for men and women aged from 16 to 64 years have been generally increasing since early 2012. For May to July 2019:

  • the estimated employment rate for everyone was estimated at 76.1%; this is the joint-highest on record since comparable records began in 1971 and 0.6 percentage points higher on the year

  • the estimated employment rate for men was 80.2%; this is up 0.1 percentage points on the year but down 0.1 percentage points on the quarter

  • the estimated employment rate for women was 72.1%; this is the joint-highest since comparable records began in 1971 and 1.1 percentage points higher on the year

The increase in the employment rate for women in recent years is partly because of changes to the State Pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65 years.

Estimates for May to July 2019 show 32.78 million people aged 16 years and over in employment, 369,000 more than for a year earlier. This annual increase has mainly been driven by more women in employment (up 284,000 on the year to reach 15.52 million). Male employment also showed an increase of 86,000 on the year to reach 17.26 million; this increase was driven by those who were self-employed.

More information about employment can be found in the Employment in the UK bulletin, published alongside this release.

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.

Estimated unemployment rates for both men and women aged 16 years and over have been generally falling since late 2013.

For May to July 2019:

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for everyone was 3.8%, lower than a year earlier (4.0%); this has not been lower since October to December 1974

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for men was 4.0%, relatively unchanged from a year earlier

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for women was 3.6%, the joint-lowest since comparable records began in 1971 and 0.4 percentage points lower than a year earlier (4.0%)

More information about unemployment can be found in the Employment in the UK bulletin, published alongside this release.

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 from 16 to 64 years.

Since comparable records began in 1971, the economic inactivity rate for all people aged from 16 to 64 years has been generally falling (although it increased during recessions). This is because of a gradual fall in the economic inactivity rate for women.

For people aged from 16 to 64 years, for May to July 2019:

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for everyone was 20.8%, down 0.5 percentage points on the year

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for men was 16.4%, down 0.1 percentage points on the year

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for women was 25.2%, down 0.8 percentage points on the year

Estimates for May to July 2019 showed 8.59 million people aged from 16 to 64 years not in the labour force (economically inactive). This was 171,000 fewer than a year earlier and 487,000 fewer than five years earlier.

More information about economic inactivity can be found in the Employment in the UK bulletin, published alongside this release.

Earnings growth

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The earnings estimates are not just a measure of pay rises, as they also reflect changes in the number of paid hours worked and changes in the structure of the workforce; for example, more high-paid jobs would have an upward effect on earnings growth rates.

The rate of pay growth has been trending upwards since mid 2017. In May to July 2019, that trend has continued for total pay, while annual growth in regular pay dipped by 0.1 percentage point when compared with April to June 2019.

Factors that contribute to that pattern are:

  • The timing of bonus payments. Bonus payments in 2019 were slightly lower in March (the month in which bonuses are highest) compared with a year earlier, and higher in May to July. This impacts the pattern of growth in total pay.

  • One-off payments were made to some NHS staff in April 2019. This impacted public sector pay growth in the period April to June but the effect of that payment is not present in May to July estimates.

For July 2019, average regular pay, before tax and other deductions, for employees in Great Britain was estimated at:

  • £507 per week in nominal terms

  • £470 per week in real terms (constant 2015 prices), higher than the estimate for a year earlier (£461 per week), but £3 (0.7%) lower than the pre-recession peak of £473 per week for April 2008

The equivalent figures for total pay in real terms are £502 per week in July 2019 and £525 in February 2008, a 4.5% difference.

More information about earnings growth can be found in the Average weekly earnings in Great Britain bulletin, published alongside this release.

Vacancies

The estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell sharply during the recession of 2008 to 2009. Since 2012, it has generally increased, although it has been falling since early 2019. For June to August 2019, there were an estimated 812,000 vacancies in the UK, 23,000 fewer than for the previous quarter (March to May 2019) and 33,000 fewer than for the previous year.

More information about vacancies can be found in the Vacancies and jobs in the UK bulletin, published alongside this release.

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4. Data

Summary of labour market statistics
Dataset A01 | Released 10 September 2019
Estimates of employment, unemployment and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A02 SA | Released 10 September 2019
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and inactivity for people aged 16 years and over and people aged from 16 to 64 years based on the Labour Force Survey.

Average weekly earnings
Dataset EARN01 | Released 10 September 2019
Estimates of Great Britain earnings growth based on the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey.

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 10 September 2019
Estimates of the number of UK job vacancies for each industry, based on a survey of businesses.

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5. Glossary

Average weekly earnings

Average weekly earnings measures money paid by employers to employees in Great Britain before tax and other deductions from pay. The estimates are not just a measure of pay rises as they also reflect, for example, changes in the overall structure of the workforce. More high-paid jobs in the economy would have an upward effect on the earnings growth rate.

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 from 16 to 64 years who are not in the labour force.

Employment

Employment measures the number of people in paid work and differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 years who are in paid work.

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.

Vacancies

Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking recruits from outside their business or organisation. The estimates are based on the Vacancy Survey – a survey of businesses 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).

A more detailed Glossary is available.

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6. Measuring the data

The employment, unemployment and economic inactivity estimates rely on data collected from the Labour Force Survey (a survey run by field interviewers with people across the UK every month).

The Labour Force Survey performance and quality monitoring reports provide data on response rates and other quality-related issues for the Labour Force Survey (LFS), including breakdowns of response by LFS wave, region and by question-specific response issues.

The average weekly earnings and vacancies estimates rely on data collected from surveys of employers.

The following Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) reports pull together important qualitative information on the various dimensions of data quality, as well as providing a summary of the methods used to compile the output:

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7. Strengths and limitations

Re-assessment of labour market estimates

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has a planned reassessment of Labour Market employment estimates which aims to publish a set of recommendations in early 2020. As part of this assessment, the OSR may contact you to:

  • gather feedback on your use of LM estimates

  • listen to your suggestions on ways we can build on our current engagement opportunities

  • capture examples of where we have worked (or are working) together to improve communication and use of our statistics

The three sections of the recommendations report will cover trustworthiness, quality and value. The OSR will coordinate engagement with you but please feel free to contact David Freeman (david.freeman@ons.gov.uk) or Matt Hughes (matthew.hughes@ons.gov.uk) if you wish to discuss further.

Accuracy of the statistics: estimating and reporting uncertainty

The figures in this bulletin come from surveys, which gather information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints. Results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.

As the number of people available in the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates that we can make from that sample size gets larger. Estimates for small groups (for example, unemployed people aged from 16 to 17 years), which are based on quite small subsets of the Labour Force Survey sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups (for example, the total number of unemployed people).

In general, changes in the numbers (and especially the rates) reported in this bulletin between three-month periods are small, and are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.

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

Where to find data about uncertainty and reliability

Dataset A11 shows sampling variabilities for estimates derived from the Labour Force Survey.

Sampling variability information for average weekly earnings growth rates is available from the “Sampling Variability” worksheets within datasets EARN01 and EARN03.

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level. Information on revisions is available in the labour market statistics revisions policy.

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8. More about the labour market

Trends in self-employment in the UK
Article | Released 7 February 2018
Analysing the characteristics, income and wealth of the self-employed.

Sickness absence in the labour market
Article | Released 30 July 2018
The latest figures for 2017 show that the average number of sickness absence days that UK workers take has almost halved since 1993.

People who have never worked
Article | Released 28 February 2019
Analysis of the number of people who have never done paid work, their reasons for not working and some of their personal characteristics.

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9. You might also be interested in

Labour market economic commentary
Article | Released 10 September 2019
Additional economic analysis of the latest UK labour market headline statistics and long-term trends.

Regional labour market statistics
Bulletin | Released 10 September 2019
Regional breakdowns of changes in UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity.

Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)
Bulletin | Released 22 August 2019
Estimates of people in the UK aged from 16 to 24 years who are not in education, employment or training.

Working and workless households in the UK
Bulletin | Released 28 August 2019
The economic status of households in the UK and the people living in them, in households where at least one person is aged from 16 to 64 years.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Debra Leaker
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455400