Labour Market Overview, UK: January 2024

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of the United Kingdom's labour market, the January 2024 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.

As we enter the new year, it is crucial to take stock of the recent developments in the UK labour market. The period from October to December 2023 has brought about several noteworthy trends and changes, shaping the landscape for both employers and employees. In this blog post, we will delve into key statistics and indicators, shedding light on the current state of the labour market in the UK.

Vacancies and Employment Trends:

In the final quarter of 2023, the estimated number of job vacancies in the UK experienced a decline for the 18th consecutive period, falling by 49,000 to reach 934,000. Despite this extended period of quarterly decreases, the number of vacancies remains above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. This suggests a persistent but stabilizing trend in the job market.

Earnings and Inflation:

Annual growth in regular earnings (excluding bonuses) in Great Britain was robust at 6.6% during September to November 2023. Moreover, the annual growth in employees' average total earnings, including bonuses, was 6.5% during the same period. However, in real terms (adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs), total pay rose by 1.3% year-on-year, and regular pay rose by 1.4%. These figures underscore the ongoing challenge of keeping pace with the rising cost of living.

Labour Disputes:

In November 2023, the UK witnessed the lowest number of working days lost due to labour disputes since May 2022, with 69,000 days lost. A significant portion of these disputes occurred in the transport, storage, information, and communication industries. This decrease in working days lost indicates a potential improvement in industrial relations.

Payrolled Employees and Alternative Estimates:

The estimate of payrolled employees in December 2023 decreased by 24,000 compared to the revised November 2023 figure, totaling 30.2 million. It's important to note that this December estimate is provisional and subject to revision with more data in the coming months.

Given increased uncertainty around the Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates, alternative estimates based on administrative data have been introduced. These alternative estimates for September to November 2023 reveal a 0.1 percentage point increase in the UK employment rate (for those aged 16 to 64 years) to 75.8%, a largely unchanged unemployment rate of 4.2%, and a 0.1 percentage point decrease in the economic inactivity rate (for those aged 16 to 64 years) to 20.8%.

Upcoming Improvements and Methodology Changes:

Acknowledging the uncertainty in the Labour Force Survey estimates, the UK's statistical authorities plan to introduce improvements to the LFS. A methods article will be published in the coming weeks, explaining these enhancements and their impact on headline estimates. The reintroduction of a fuller LFS-based dataset is expected in the February 2024 publication.

In conclusion, the UK labour market continues to navigate challenges, with some positive signs of stabilization. The forthcoming improvements to survey methodologies aim to provide a clearer and more accurate picture of the labour market dynamics in the coming months. As we move forward, it will be essential to monitor these trends to make informed decisions for both workforce planning and economic policy.

Vacancies and jobs in the UK: January 2024

  • The estimated number of vacancies in October to December 2023 was 934,000, a decrease of 49,000 from July to September 2023.
  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for a record 18th consecutive period in October to December 2023, down by 5.0% since July to September 2023 with vacancies falling in 12 of the 18 industry sectors.
  • In October to December 2023, total estimated vacancies were down by 226,000 from the level of a year ago, although they remained 133,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) January to March 2020 levels.
  • The industry sectors showing the largest quarterly decreases in the number of vacancies were wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, and transport and storage, which fell by 13,000 and 9,000, respectively.


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