ONS Labour Market Overview, UK: October 2023

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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

Commenting on the latest labour report this morning. Neil Carberry, REC Chief Executive, said:

“Throughout 2023, the jobs market has been normalising after the post-pandemic boom. While vacancies are dropping, they remain above their levels of 2019. But sector demand is varying widely and workers are facing having to make more transitions to new areas to find new roles. This transition is a primary driver of rising unemployment – though it is still low by historic standards”. 

Payrolled Employees: The estimate of payrolled employees in the UK for September 2023 stands at 30.1 million, showing a slight dip of 11,000 from August 2023 figures. However, it's essential to note that this estimate is provisional and may undergo revisions as more data become available.

Revised Employee Growth: A noteworthy revision reveals that UK payrolled employee growth for August 2023 decreased by 8,000, as opposed to the earlier reported decrease of 1,000 in the previous bulletin. This correction emphasizes the importance of accuracy in labour market data.

Alternative Figures: Given the uncertainties surrounding the Labor Force Survey (LFS) estimates, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has introduced an alternative series of experimental statistics. These figures provide a more holistic perspective of the labour market and are derived from Pay as You Earn Real-Time Information and the Claimant Count for the period from May to July 2023 onwards.

Experimental Estimates: The experimental estimates for June to August 2023 show a 0.3 percentage point decrease in the UK employment rate, dropping to 75.7%, compared to the previous quarter (March to May 2023). Concurrently, the unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 4.2%, and the economic inactivity rate saw a 0.1 percentage point increase to 20.9%.

Vacancies and Jobs: In July to September 2023, the estimated number of job vacancies in the UK fell by 43,000, marking the 15th consecutive quarterly decrease. This decline was observed across 14 of the 18 industry sectors. However, it's worth noting that the number of vacancies remained 187,000 above pre-COVID-19 levels from January to March 2020.

Wage Growth: The labour market report also shines a light on wage growth. Annual growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was an impressive 7.8% in June to August 2023, reflecting a steady upward trajectory. Annual growth in employees' average total pay (including bonuses) reached 8.1%, though this figure was influenced by one-off payments made in the NHS and Civil Service during June, July, and August 2023.

Real Terms Adjustments: In real terms, adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupier's housing costs (CPIH), annual growth for total pay increased by 1.3%, and regular pay rose by 1.1%. These adjustments provide a more accurate picture of how wage growth is impacting people's lives.

Strikes and Labor Disputes: August 2023 saw 119,000 working days lost due to labour disputes, with a majority of these strikes occurring in the health and social work sector. These events underscore the ongoing challenges within specific industries.

Vacancies and jobs in the UK: October 2023

Main Points:

  • The number of vacancies in July to September 2023 was 988,000, a decrease of 43,000 from April to June 2023. 
  • Vacancy numbers fell on the quarter for the 15th consecutive period in July to September 2023, down by 4.2% since April to June 2023 with vacancies falling in 14 of the 18 industry sectors. 
  • In July to September 2023, total vacancies were down by 256,000 from the level of a year ago, although they remained 187,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic January to March 2020 levels.  

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 17 October 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Vacancies and jobs in the UK: October 2023