November saw the highest level of industrial action in 11 years, with 467 working days lost due to strikes. This is likely rise further, given ongoing industrial disputes in December and January and strikes planned for the months ahead. However, days lost due to strikes remain well below historic levels seen in the 1970s and 1980s.
The latest data show average regular earnings grew by 6.4% in the year to November 2022 – however this is mostly driven by private sector pay. For public sector workers average regular earnings grew by 3.3%, while average regular earnings grew by over twice that (7.2 %) for private sector workers. However, high inflation means real wages have now fallen by 2.4% in the year to November 2022. Further falls are likely while inflation remains high, although there are signs inflation may be peaking, with CPIH inflation decreasing from 9.6% in October to 9.3% in November.
Employment increased moderately again by 27,000 in September to November2022 compared to the previous quarter but still remains 292,000 lower than before the pandemic.
Unemployment increased by 56,000 in September to November 2022 compared to the previous quarter but is 120,000 lower than pre-pandemic.
Economic inactivity fell by 55,000 compared to the previous quarter but is still 575,000 higher than its pre-pandemic level. Over 8.9 million people aged 16-64 are economically inactive, over 2.6 million of whom say this is due to sickness or disability (long or short term), 15% higher than pre-pandemic. Our research shows the UK is an international outlier in seeing this rise in economic inactivity, highlighting the need to extend employment support and widen our labour force.
There is some evidence that the job market is cooling, with vacancies in October to December down by approximately 140,000 on their 2022 peak (1.3 million to 1.16 million).
Recruitment is more challenging for employers because of rises in economic inactivity – people leaving the labour market. This has been primarily driven by those aged 50 and over and people with long-term health problems and disabilities. The number of people aged 50-64 who are economically inactive has increased by 9.5% since the pandemic started.
This is a key challenge – for the Government to support people in this group who want to work and for employers to think about recruitment and job design that will meet their needs. However, inactivity for those aged over 50 has decreased slightly. The number of over 64s who are economically inactive fell by 11,000 to just under 11 million in September to November 2022 compared with the previous quarter, and the number of 50-64 year olds who are economically inactive decreased by 67,000, from approximately 3.6 million to 3.54 million. It may be that the cost of living crisis is leading people to rethink whether they want or need to work.
Employment rates this quarter are higher than the equivalent pre-pandemic quarter in 2019 in the North East, Yorkshire & the Humber, and Scotland, but are lower everywhere else. Economic inactivity this quarter is higher than the equivalent pre-pandemic quarter everywhere except Yorkshire & the Humber and Scotland. This varying picture, which is even greater at sub-regional level, shows the importance of tackling inequalities so everyone has a fair chance in life wherever they live.