June 2024

Stephen Evans, chief executive at Learning and Work Institute, said:
The last labour market stats before the election show a further drop in employment and rise in economic inactivity. 3.2 million people are out of work but want a job: the next government needs to widen employment support to all who want to work, given today only 1 in 10 out-of-work disabled people get help to find work each year. Average earnings are rising in real terms as inflation falls, but are a staggering £12,000 per year below what they'd be on pre-financial crisis trends. This shows the scale of catch-up needed in the years ahead
Helen Gray, chief economist at Learning and Work Institute, said:
Over one million 16- to 24-year-olds are not in employment or full-time education, of which 195,000 have been out of work for six months or more. As rates of unemployment and economic inactivity continue to rise, there is an urgent need to increase the support available to young people as they make the transition into the workplace. We call upon the next government to offer young people a guaranteed job, training place or apprenticeship to allow everyone to fulfil their potential in the labour market.

1. Headline indicators

Employment in April 2024 fell by 53,900 on the previous month and fell by 199,600 on the November-January 2024 quarter, to 31,498,000. The employment rate for those aged 16-64 fell to 74.3%, from 74.8% in the last quarter.

Economic inactivity for those aged 16-64 went up by 131,900 on the previous quarter to 9.43 million. The economic inactivity rate went up to 22.3% from 22.0% in the last quarter.

Unemployment (for those aged 16-64) went up by 111,000 compared with the previous quarter to 1.46 million. The unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from 4.1% in the previous quarter.



2. Nominal pay rises continue to outstrip inflation

The latest data show average regular earnings grew by 6.0% in the year to April 2024, unchanged from February 2024 and down from the post-pandemic peak of 7.9% in August 2023. For public sector workers average regular earnings grew by 6.4% in the year to April 2024, while average regular earnings grew by 5.8% for private sector workers. After taking account of inflation, real regular earnings went up by 2.3% (3-month average change) in the year to April 2024, with the single month data for April showing a real-terms increase of 2.6% over the year.

The rate of inflation has been falling since May 2023 and stood at 3.0% in April 2024. In the year to April 2024 core CPIH (excluding energy, food, alcohol and tobacco) rose by 4.4%, slightly less than the increase seen in the year to March 2024 (4.7%). Inflation in areas like Owner occupiers’ housing costs, Health, Communication, Recreation and culture, Education, and Restaurants and hotels is still very high and inflation in the UK remains above that in other G7 countries, with the exception of the United States. The United States is currently experiencing an inflation rate of 3.4% while the Eurozone average is 2.4%. Weak growth since the global financial crisis means average earnings are around £12,000 per year lower than if pre-crisis trends had continued.



3. There are fewer potential workers for employers to recruit, with 1 million fewer over 50s in the labour market since the pandemic started

Recruitment has been more challenging for employers since the pandemic because of rises in economic inactivity – people leaving the labour market. The number of people aged 50 to 64 who are economically inactive has increased by 11.3% since the pandemic started.

Economic inactivity has started to rise in recent months, with the rate standing at 22.3% for those aged 16-64 in February to April 2024 – up from 22.0% in the previous quarter. Overall, the number of those aged 16 to 64 who are economic inactive is 883,000 higher than pre-pandemic, yet only one in ten out-of-work older people and people with a disability get employment support each year. The Government needs to extend employment support to more people outside the labour market and employers need to think about recruitment and job design to attract and retain staff.



4. The proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds not in employment or full-time education has risen over the past year

The unemployment rate for young people aged between 16 and 24 in the February to April 2024 quarter was 13.6%, 2.3 percentage points higher than the rate in the same quarter one year earlier (11.4%). The number of young people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in employment or full-time education currently stands at 1,120,000.

The percentage of those aged 16 to 17 who were not in employment or full-time education was similar in February to April 2024 compared with the same quarter one year earlier (8.2% and 8.1% respectively). Over the same period the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who were not in employment or full-time education rose from 16.4% to 17.8%. Our Youth Opportunity Index gives a detailed portrait of the opportunities and challenges for every young person broken down by local education authority.





5. Vacancies are gradually falling, but 1.7 million economically inactive want a job

Headline vacancies in the March to May 2024 quarter were down by 4,000 on the previous month, at 904,000, and 12,000 lower than in the previous quarter. The headline ONS vacancy figure is both seasonally adjusted and a three-month average. Using the official measure of unemployment, there are 1.7 unemployed people for every vacancy. However, there are an additional 1.7 million people who are economically inactive but want a job. Extending employment support to this group would potentially ease recruitment pressures for employers.



6. Numbers claiming unemployment-related benefits continue to exceed the ILO measure of unemployment

Unemployment in the February to April 2024 quarter was 1,510,000. The quarterly headline figure has risen by 138,000 since the November 2023 to January 2024 quarter, and is up by 24,000 from last month’s published level. The experimental single-month estimate showed a rise in unemployment of 47,000 between March and April 2024. The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,629,000, up by 50,000 on last month. In April 2024 the number of unemployed people who were claiming unemployment-related benefits was 68,000 higher than the number unemployed on the official measure.


7. Unemployment rate much higher for young people than for those aged 25+

The 16- to 24-year-old unemployment rate (including students) was 13.6% of the economically active in the February to April 2024 quarter. The rate for those aged 25 to 49 was 3.3%. For those aged 50 and over it is 2.8%. Compared with the previous quarter the unemployment rate has risen by 1.6 percentage points for 16- to 24-year-olds, 0.1 percentage points for 25- to 49-year-olds and 0.4 percentage points for those aged 50 or more.


8. Long-term unemployment rising across the age ranges

Youth long-term unemployment (which can include students) is up by 48,000 over the last quarter and stood at 195,000 in the February to April 2024 quarter. Long-term unemployment for young people is normally counted as being unemployed for six months or more. Adult long-term unemployment on the survey measure was 251,000 in the February to April 2024 quarter. The number of people aged 25 and over out of work for 12 months was 40,000 higher in the most recent quarter than in the previous quarter (November 2023 to January 2024).


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