Labour market overview, UK: April 2024

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The latest statistics released by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) provide a comprehensive snapshot of the nation's labor market dynamics for the month of March 2024, revealing a mixed bag of trends and challenges.

Payrolled Employees in Flux

In a somewhat volatile period, payrolled employees in the UK witnessed a marginal decline of 18,000 (0.1%) between January and February 2024. However, the picture brightened when looking at the broader yearly trend, with an encouraging increase of 352,000 (1.2%) between February 2023 and February 2024. Despite this, the early estimate of payrolled employees for March 2024 showed a decrease of 67,000 (0.2%) on the month, though still indicating a positive trajectory with a 0.7% increase on the year to a total of 30.3 million. Caution is advised with the March 2024 estimate, as it's provisional and subject to revision pending further data.

Volatility in Labour Force Survey Estimates

The Labour Force Survey's estimates exhibited increased volatility due to smaller sample sizes, warranting additional caution when interpreting quarterly changes. The ONS recommends integrating these estimates with other labor market indicators such as Workforce Jobs, Claimant Count data, and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) estimates for a comprehensive assessment.

Employment Landscape Overview

However, the broader employment landscape presents a more challenging narrative. Between December 2023 and February 2024, the UK employment level for those aged 16 years and over decreased both on the year and the quarter. The UK employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 years stood at 74.5% during the same period, reflecting a decline compared to previous estimates and a decrease in the latest quarter.

Unemployment and Economic Inactivity Rates

On the flip side, the UK's unemployment rate for those aged 16 years and over was estimated at 4.2% in December 2023 to February 2024, representing an increase compared to the same period last year and a rise in the latest quarter. Moreover, the economic inactivity rate for those aged 16 to 64 years climbed to 22.2%, surpassing estimates from the previous year and registering an uptick in the latest quarter.

Claimant Count and Vacancies

The Claimant Count for March 2024 revealed an increase of 10,900 on the month and 57,400 on the year, reaching 1.583 million individuals seeking unemployment benefits. In terms of vacancies, the UK saw a decline of 13,000 on the quarter to 916,000, marking the 21st consecutive period of contraction but still surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Earnings Growth and Industrial Harmony

Despite the challenging employment landscape, there were glimmers of positivity in earnings growth. Annual growth in employees' average regular earnings (excluding bonuses) in Great Britain reached 6.0% in December 2023 to February 2024, while total earnings (including bonuses) grew by 5.6% annually. In real terms, accounting for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index including owner-occupiers' housing costs (CPIH), regular pay saw an annual growth of 1.9%, with total pay growing by 1.6%.

However, industrial harmony was somewhat disrupted, with an estimated 106,000 working days lost in February 2024 due to labor disputes across the UK. The health and social work industry bore the brunt of these disruptions, reflecting ongoing challenges within the sector.

As the UK labor market navigates through these complexities, policymakers and stakeholders face the task of implementing targeted interventions to address emerging challenges while fostering sustainable employment growth and economic resilience.


Vacancies and jobs in the UK: April 2024

  • The estimated number of vacancies in January to March 2024 was 916,000, a decrease of 13,000 or 1.4% from October to December 2023.
  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for the 21st consecutive period in January to March 2024, despite vacancies falling in only 8 of the 18 industry sectors.
  • Total estimated vacancies were down by 204,000 in January to March 2024 from the level of a year previously, although they remained 120,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) January to March 2020 levels.
  • The number of unemployed people per vacancy was 1.6 in December 2023 to February 2024, up from 1.4 the previous quarter (September to November 2023), with vacancies falling and unemployment increasing.


Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 16 April 2024, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: April 2024