For the second month running, uncertainties created by falling response rates to the Labour Force Survey mean the Office for National Statistics has released a more limited set of data, adjusted in line with trends in administrative data like HMRC PAYE data and the claimant count of unemployed people. However, these administrative data have their own challenges. Significant caution should therefore be exercised in the use of these statistics until a new Labour Force Survey and revised population projections are in place in 2024.
Employment in September is up by 11,000 on the previous month and up by 54,000 on the April to June 2023 quarter, to 32,984,000. The employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 remains the same at 75.7%, compared with the last quarter.
Economic inactivity for those aged 16 to 64 is up by 33,000 on the previous quarter to 8.73 million. The economic inactivity rate remains the same at 20.9%.
Unemployment (for those aged 16 to 64) rose by 9,000 compared with the previous quarter, to 1.42 million. As with the employment and inactivity rates, the unemployment rate for July to September 2023 was unchanged on the April to June 2023 quarter, at 4.3%.
The latest data show average regular earnings grew by 7.7% in the year to September 2023. For public sector workers average regular earnings grew by 7.3%, while average regular earnings grew by 7.8% for private sector workers. The slowing rate of inflation means real regular earnings went up by 1.3% (3-month average change) in the year to September 2023, with the single month data for September showing an increase of 1.0% over the year. Inflation has remained largely unchanged in recent months – CPIH decreased very slightly from 6.4% in July to 6.3% in August and stayed at 6.3% in September. Core CPIH (excluding energy, food, alcohol and tobacco) in the year to August 2023 was 5.9%, down from 6.4% in July. It remained at 5.9% in the year to September 2023. Also, inflation in areas like food and non-alcoholic beverages is still very high. Inflation in the UK remains above that in other countries in the G7. The United States is currently experiencing an inflation rate of 3.7% while the Eurozone average is currently 4.3%. Weak growth since the global financial crisis means average earnings are around £12,000 per year lower than if pre-crisis trends had continued.
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 8.5% since the pandemic started.
Economic inactivity has been stable in the most recent quarter, with no change in the rate in July to September 2023 compared with April to June 2023. But the challenge remains: the number of those aged 16 to 64 who are economic inactive is 357,000 higher than pre-pandemic, yet only one in ten out-of-work older people and disabled people 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.
Headline vacancies this month stand at 957,000, down by 58,000 compared with the previous quarter. The ONS’ experimental single-month vacancy figure has fallen by 30,000 over the past month. The headline ONS vacancy figure is both seasonally adjusted and a three-month average.
Recent adjustments to the Labour Force Survey to align with other sources have closed the sizeable gap between the numbers claiming unemployment-related benefits and those unemployed on the official measure. Unemployment is 1,448,000, up by 4,000 from last month’s published level, and the quarterly headline figure has risen by 9,000. The ONS figure for claimant unemployed was 1,568,000 in October, up by 18,000 on the previous month and a similar amount on the quarter. In September 2023 the number of unemployed people who were claiming unemployment-related benefits was 102,000 higher than the number unemployed on the official measure.
Of those who are economically active, the unemployment rate is 12.6% among 16-to-24-year-olds. The rate for those aged 25 to 34 is 3.9%, whilst it is 2.7% for those aged 35 to 49. For those aged 50 to 64 the unemployment rate is 2.9% and for those over 65 years of age it is 2.0%. In the most recent quarter, the unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points for 16-to-24-year-olds compared with April to June 2023, but remained unchanged for all other age groups.