Labour market overview, UK: December 2023

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of the United Kingdom's labour market, the December 2023 report offers a glimpse into the recent shifts and trends that are shaping the nation's workforce. This comprehensive overview highlights both the challenges and opportunities that have emerged in the labour market.

The labour market in the United Kingdom has experienced notable shifts in the final quarter of 2023, marked by a series of significant indicators. As we delve into the latest data, we gain insights into key aspects such as job vacancies, wage growth, labour disputes, and the overall employment landscape.

1. Job Vacancies and Consecutive Quarterly Falls

In the period of September to November 2023, the UK witnessed a decline in the estimated number of vacancies, dropping by 45,000 on the quarter to 949,000. This decline marks the 17th consecutive quarter of falling vacancies, setting a record for the longest stretch of quarterly declines ever recorded. Despite this trend, the number of vacancies remains above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, reflecting a complex interplay of economic factors.

2. Wage Growth Trends

The labour market also saw noteworthy trends in wage growth during August to October 2023. Annual growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) stood at a robust 7.3%, showcasing the resilience of the UK job market. However, this growth, while strong, is not as high as observed in recent periods. Annual growth in employees' average total pay, including bonuses, was slightly lower at 7.2%.

Breaking down the figures, the public sector recorded a 6.9% annual average growth in regular earnings, a rate among the highest since comparable records began in 2001. In contrast, the private sector outpaced this with an annual average growth of 7.3%. In real terms, adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index, total pay and regular pay both rose on the year, with growth rates of 1.3% and 1.4%, respectively.

3. Labour Disputes and Working Days Lost

Labour disputes in the UK during October 2023 resulted in 131,000 working days lost, with three-fifths of these disputes concentrated in the health and social work sector. The number of workers involved in labour disputes, at 49,000, reached its lowest point since June 2022. This suggests a relative calm in industrial relations compared to previous months.

4. Workforce Jobs and Payrolled Employees

The estimated number of workforce jobs in the UK reached a record high of 36.8 million in September 2023, marking an increase of 210,000 from June 2023. This growth was driven by both employee jobs and self-employment.

However, the estimate of payrolled employees in November 2023 remained largely unchanged compared to October 2023, with a slight decrease of 13,000 to 30.2 million. It is important to note that the November estimate is provisional and subject to revision as more data becomes available.

5. Revised Payrolled Employee Growth

An interesting development is the revision of payrolled employee growth for October 2023. Initially reported as an increase of 33,000, it has been revised to a higher figure of 39,000. This adjustment underscores the dynamic nature of the labour market and the importance of ongoing analysis.

In conclusion, the UK labour market in December 2023 reflects a nuanced landscape with a mix of positive and challenging indicators. The consecutive decline in job vacancies and the dynamics of wage growth contribute to a multifaceted narrative that demands careful consideration as we navigate the economic landscape in the coming months. As we await further data updates, businesses and policymakers will be closely monitoring these trends to inform strategic decisions in the evolving job market.

Vacancies and jobs in the UK: December 2023

  • The estimated number of vacancies in September to November 2023 was 949,000, a decrease of 45,000, down by 4.5% since June to August 2023 with vacancies falling in 16 of the 18 industry sectors.
  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for the 17th consecutive period in September to November 2023, the longest consecutive run of quarterly falls ever recorded.
  • In September to November 2023, total estimated vacancies were down by 229,000 from the level of a year ago, although they remained 148,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic January to March 2020 levels.
  • The industry sectors showing the largest annual decreases in the number of vacancies were human health and social work, and professional, scientific and technical activities, which both fell by 34,000 from the equivalent period last year.
  • The estimated number of workforce jobs in September 2023 was 36.8 million, an increase of 210,000 from June 2023.


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