The UK labour market remains robust

Date : 15 March 2023
New data from ONS shows that the UK labour market remains fairly robust, in spite of increasing economic pressure, with employment rising and unemployment low.

ONS research shows that employment rose slightly in December 2022 (the latest month for which there is data), reaching 32.84m, although this is still short of the 33.07m seen just before the outbreak of COVID-19.

Average hours worked remains stable at 36 hours per week for full time employees and 17 hours per week for part-timers.

This indicates that there is still plenty of work to be done – a promising sign for those attempting to gauge the health of the economy.

Unemployment remains low at 3.7% in December 2022 and there is no sign that redundancies are rising. The number of empty vacancies continues to fall, however, and it is not clear what this might indicate.

It may mean that employers are finding it easier to recruit, which would be positive, since it suggests that economic capacity may be rising.

On the other hand, it may also mean that demand for new workers is declining or that employers are becoming more cautious about taking on staff, which would be more negative.

IGD tends towards the former interpretation, since the number of economically-inactive adults has been falling slowly, but steadily, since July 2022. The ONS view on this is more pessimistic.

Over that period, about 155,000 people have ceased to be economically-inactive and at least some of these are likely to have joined the labour market (with others possibly moving into retirement due to age).

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