ONS labour market overview, UK: January 2022

Written by the Office for National Statistics

Our most timely estimate of payrolled employees indicates that in December 2021 there were 29.5 million employees in the UK: up 184,000 on the revised November 2021 level and up 409,000 on the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 level. All regions are now above pre-coronavirus levels, with Scotland having the largest percentage increase on the month.

Our latest Labour Force Survey estimates for September to November 2021 show a continuing recovery in the labour market, with a quarterly increase in the employment rate, while the unemployment rate decreased.

The UK employment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points on the quarter to 75.5%. The number of part-time workers decreased strongly during the pandemic, but has been increasing since April to June 2021, driving the increase in employment during the latest three-month period.

The unemployment rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points on the quarter to 4.1%, while the economic inactivity rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 21.3%. The redundancy rate decreased to a record low following the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The number of job vacancies in October to December 2021 rose to a new record of 1,247,000, an increase of 462,000 from its pre-coronavirus January to March 2020 level, with most industries displaying record numbers of vacancies. However, the rate of growth in vacancies continued to slow down. The ratio of vacancies to every 100 employee jobs reached a record high 4.1 in October to December 2021.

Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 4.2% and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 3.8% among employees in September to November 2021. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), total and regular pay have shown minimal growth in September to November 2021, at 0.4% for total pay and 0.0% for regular pay. Single-month growth in real average weekly earnings for November 2021 fell on the year for the first time since July 2020, at negative 0.9% for total pay and negative 1.0% for regular pay.

Previous months’ strong growth rates were affected upwards by base and compositional effects. These temporary factors have largely worked their way out of the latest growth rates, however, a small amount of base effect for certain sectors may still be present. In July we published a blog: How COVID-19 has impacted the Average Weekly Earnings data, which explains the complexities of interpreting earnings data.