Labour Market Overview, UK: March 2024

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The latest data from the UK's labour market paints a mixed picture, with some indicators showing resilience while others hint at challenges. Let's delve into the key highlights from the recent statistics:

Payrolled Employees

Between December 2023 and January 2024, payrolled employees in the UK saw a marginal increase of 15,000 (0.0%). However, the annual growth rate has shown signs of deceleration, with a rise of 386,000 (1.3%) between January 2023 and January 2024. The provisional estimate for February 2024 indicates a further increase of 20,000 (0.1%) on the month, totaling 30.4 million. Yet, caution is advised as this figure may be subject to revision next month.

Labour Force Survey Estimates

The volatility in Labour Force Survey estimates, attributed to smaller sample sizes, warrants additional caution, particularly when interpreting quarterly changes. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the labour market dynamics, it's advisable to consider a range of indicators, including workforce jobs, Claimant Count data, and Pay As You Earn Real Time Information estimates.

Employment and Unemployment Rates

The employment level for those aged 16 and over showed an increase compared to the previous year but declined on the quarter. Similarly, the employment rate for individuals aged 16 to 64 stood at 75.0% in November 2023 to January 2024, reflecting a decrease compared to both the previous year and the latest quarter. Conversely, the unemployment rate remained relatively stable at 3.9% in November 2023 to January 2024, compared to the same period last year.

Economic Inactivity and Claimant Count

The economic inactivity rate for individuals aged 16 to 64 rose to 21.8%, surpassing estimates from the previous year and indicating an increase in the latest quarter. Meanwhile, the Claimant Count for February 2024 rose by 16,800 on the month and by 85,800 on the year, reaching 1.585 million.

Vacancies and Earnings

Vacancies in the UK declined by 43,000 on the quarter, marking the 20th consecutive period of decrease. However, they remain above pre-pandemic levels. On the earnings front, total earnings (including bonuses) exhibited annual growth of 5.6%, while employees' average regular earnings (excluding bonuses) rose by 6.1% in November 2023 to January 2024. Adjusted for inflation, real terms growth for total pay and regular pay stood at 1.4% and 1.8%, respectively.

Labour Disputes

Labour disputes led to the loss of 203,000 working days across the UK in January 2024, with the health and social work industry being the most affected.

In conclusion, while certain metrics suggest positive momentum in the UK labour market, challenges such as rising economic inactivity and ongoing labour disputes underscore the need for continued vigilance and targeted interventions to foster sustainable growth and employment opportunities.

Vacancies and jobs in the UK: March 2024

  • The estimated number of vacancies in December 2023 to February 2024 was 908,000, a decrease of 43,000 from September to November 2023.
  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for the 20th consecutive period in December 2023 to February 2024, down by 4.5% from September to November 2023, with the estimated number of vacancies falling in 14 of the 18 industry sectors.
  • Total estimated vacancies in December 2023 to February 2024 were down by 224,000 from the level of a year previously, although they remained 107,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) January to March 2020 levels.
  • The number of unemployed people per vacancy in November 2023 to January 2024 was 1.5, up from 1.4 the previous quarter (August to October 2023), as the number of vacancies continue to fall.
  • The total workforce jobs estimate rose in December 2023 by 125,000 on the quarter to 36.9 million, with increases in both employee jobs and self-employment jobs.


Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 12 March 2024, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Labour market overview, UK: March 2024