Labour market overview, UK: September 2023

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

27 September 2023

The reweighting of the Labour Force Survey originally planned for October 2023 will now not happen. Instead, we will be updating the weighting when the Transformed Labour Force Survey (TLFS) is introduced in March 2024 to ensure that the most consistent and up-to-date population estimates are used. We intend to use the next population estimates (for mid-year 2022) which will be released on 23 November 2023, in weighting the TLFS.

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Email Debra Leaker

Release date:
12 September 2023

Next release:
24 October 2023

2. Main points

The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.5% in May to July 2023, 0.5 percentage points lower than February to April 2023. The quarterly decrease in employment was mainly driven by full-time self-employed workers.

The estimate of payrolled employees for August 2023 is largely unchanged on the month, down 1,000 on the revised July 2023 figure, to 30.1 million. The August 2023 estimate should be treated as a provisional estimate and is likely to be revised when more data are received next month.

The unemployment rate for May to July 2023 increased by 0.5 percentage points on the quarter to 4.3%. The increase in unemployment was largely driven by people unemployed for up to 12 months.

The economic inactivity rate increased by 0.1 percentage points on the quarter, to 21.1% in May to July 2023. The increase in economic inactivity during the latest quarter was driven by people aged 16 to 24 years. Those inactive because of long-term sickness increased to another record high. Meanwhile, those inactive because they were looking after family or home decreased to a record low.

In June to August 2023, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 64,000 on the quarter to 989,000. Vacancies fell on the quarter for the 14th consecutive period.

Annual growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 7.8% in May to July 2023, the same as the previous 3-month period and is the highest regular annual growth rate since comparable records began in 2001. Annual growth in employees’ average total pay (including bonuses) was 8.5%; this total annual growth rate is affected by the NHS and Civil Service one-off payments made in June and July 2023. In real terms (adjusted for inflation using Consumer Prices Index including owner occupier's housing costs (CPIH)), annual growth for total pay rose on the year by 1.2% and for regular pay rose on the year by 0.6%.

There were 281,000 working days lost because of labour disputes in July 2023. The majority of the strikes were in the Education and Health and social work sectors.

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3. Latest indicators at a glance

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4. Labour market data

Summary of labour market statistics
Dataset A01 | Released 12 September 2023
Labour market statistics summary data table, including earnings, employment, unemployment, redundancies and vacancies, Great Britain and UK, published monthly.

Earnings and employment from Pay As You Earn Real Time Information, seasonally adjusted
Dataset | Released 12 September 2023
Earnings and employment statistics from Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) (experimental statistics), seasonally adjusted.

Labour Force Survey single-month estimates
Dataset X01 | Released 12 September 2023
Labour Force Survey (LFS) single-month estimates of employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity. Not designated as National Statistics.

A guide to labour market data
Methodology | Updated 21 April 2023
Summary of labour market datasets, providing estimates of employment, unemployment, average weekly earnings, and the number of vacancies. Tables are listed alphabetically and by topic.

View all related data on our related data page.

Alternatively, Nomis provides free access to the most detailed and up-to-date UK labour market statistics.

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5. Glossary

Average weekly earnings

Average weekly earnings, detailed in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology, measure 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, because 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 in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology 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 four weeks 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 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. See our Guide to labour market statistics methodology for a more detailed explanation.


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 (people in work and those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed. See our Guide to labour market statistics methodology for more information.


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. This is 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). For more information, see our Guide to labour market statistics methodology.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI)

These data come from HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC's) Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) system. They cover the whole population, rather than a sample of people or companies, and they will allow for more detailed estimates of the population. The release is classed as experimental statistics (see our Guide to experimental statistics methodology), as the methodologies used to produce the statistics are still in their development phase. As a result, the series are subject to revisions.

A more detailed glossary is available in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology.

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6. Measuring the data

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) increased the wave 1 Labour Force Survey (LFS) issued sample size to mitigate the drop in response rates. In July 2023, it reverted to pre-pandemic wave 1 LFS sample sizes.

Because of ongoing challenges in maintaining response rates, the LFS is experiencing higher sampling variability than in the past, especially for estimates for smaller subgroups of the population. As a result, estimates especially for smaller groups should be used with caution. 

To improve response rates, we are bringing in improvements to the Labour Force Survey through transformation. We are also reweighting the existing Labour Force Survey to take account of more up-to-date population information. More details of the latter will be published on 3 October 2023. 

Further information can be found in our quarterly Labour Force Survey performance and quality monitoring reports and in our blog on the ongoing data collection challenges with the Labour Force Survey published in August 2023.

Our Comparison of labour market data sources methodology compares data sources and discusses some of the main differences.


For more information on how labour market data sources were affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see our Coronavirus and the effects on UK labour market statistics article.

Labour Force Survey reweighting

The population totals used for the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates use projected growth rates from Real Time Information (RTI) data for EU and non-EU populations based on 2021 patterns. Therefore, the total population used for the LFS, does not account for any changes in migration, birth rates, death rates, and so on since June 2021. As such, levels estimates may be under- or over-estimating the true values and should be used with caution.

We are planning to reweight the Labour Force Survey (LFS) published data using more up-to-date population estimates, drawing on the latest census data alongside our labour market release in October 2023. We intend to publish indicative estimates of the reweighted LFS in an article to be published on 3 October 2023.

Making our published spreadsheets accessible

Following the Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on Releasing statistics in spreadsheets, we will be amending our published tables over the coming months to improve usability, accessibility and machine readability of our published statistics. To help users change to the new formats, we will be publishing sample versions of a selection of our tables and, where practical, initially publish the tables in both the new and current formats. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at

Labour market transformation

We have published a Labour market transformation article and a Transforming the LFS blog post providing an update on the transformation of labour market statistics.

We welcome your feedback on this latest update and our plans. Please email us at to tell us what you think.

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7. Strengths and limitations

The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty. For more information, see our Uncertainty and how we measure it methodology.

Further information is available in our Guide to labour market statistics methodology.

Information on revisions is available in our Labour market statistics revisions policy.

Information on the strengths and limitations of this bulletin is available in our previous bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: April 2021.

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9. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 12 September 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: September 2023

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Debra Leaker
Telephone: +44 1633 455400