Labour Market Overview, UK: February 2024

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The latest insights into the UK's labour market for February 2024 reveal a landscape influenced by a mix of factors, including changes in employment levels, wage growth, and economic inactivity. Here's a breakdown of the key findings from the recent release:

Employment Trends and Economic Inactivity:

Over the past year, growth in employment has experienced a slowdown, coinciding with an increase in the proportion of economically inactive individuals. Notably, there has been a rise in the number of people reporting long-term sickness, indicating potential challenges in workforce participation and health-related issues impacting labour force dynamics.

Payrolled Employees and Growth Rates:

Payrolled employees in the UK exhibited a modest increase, rising by 31,000 between November and December 2023. Over the span of a year, from December 2022 to December 2023, the number of payrolled employees rose by 401,000. However, the rate of annual growth is showing signs of deceleration, reflecting potential shifts in hiring dynamics or broader economic trends.

Quarterly and Annual Estimates:

The early estimate of payrolled employees for January 2024 saw a further increase of 48,000 on the month and a substantial rise of 413,000 on the year, totaling 30.4 million. While these figures provide a snapshot of recent trends, they are provisional and subject to revision as more data becomes available.

Employment and Unemployment Rates:

The UK employment level for individuals aged 16 years and over showed growth both on the year and on the quarter. The unemployment rate for the same demographic decreased in the latest quarter, returning to levels seen a year ago. However, economic inactivity rates remained largely unchanged, with an annual increase driven by individuals inactive due to long-term sickness.

Claimant Count and Vacancies:

The UK claimant count for January 2024 increased by 14,100 on the month and by 61,200 on the year, totaling 1.579 million. Meanwhile, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 26,000 on the quarter to 932,000, marking the 19th consecutive period of decline. Despite this prolonged decline, vacancies remain above pre-pandemic levels, albeit showing signs of stabilization in the latest period.

Wage Growth and Real Pay:

Nominal earnings growth, while strong, has experienced a slight easing in recent periods. Annual growth in total earnings in Great Britain was 5.8% in October to December 2023, with employees' average regular earnings (excluding bonuses) showing growth of 6.2%. Real pay growth, adjusted for inflation, continues as inflation rates fall, with annual growth in real terms for both total pay and regular pay showing positive figures.

In summary, the UK's labour market in February 2024 reflects a complex interplay of trends, including fluctuations in employment levels, wage growth, and economic activity. While certain indicators point to resilience and stability, others highlight ongoing challenges and areas warranting further attention from policymakers and stakeholders alike. As the landscape continues to evolve, continued monitoring and analysis will be essential to navigate the dynamics of the UK's labour market effectively.

Vacancies and jobs in the UK: February 2024

  • The estimated number of vacancies in November 2023 to January 2024 was 932,000, a decrease of 26,000 from August to October 2023.
  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for the 19th consecutive period in November 2023 to January 2024, down by 2.7% since August to October 2023, with the estimated number of vacancies falling in 12 of the 18 industry sectors.
  • Total estimated vacancies were down by 209,000 in November 2023 to January 2024, from the level of a year previous, although they remained 131,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) January to March 2020 levels.
  • The industry sectors showing the largest annual decreases in the number of vacancies were human health and social work activities, and accommodation and food service activities, which fell by 41,000 and 37,000, respectively.

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 13 February 2024, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: February 2024