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Modest employment growth, according to ONS latest figures

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Average regular pay growth for the private sector was 7%

UK employment rates continue to show modest growth, with the employment rate rising 0.1% to 75.7% between November 2022 and January 2023. The increase in employment was mainly driven by part-time employees and self-employed workers, according to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The timeliest estimate of payrolled employees also showed an increase of 98,000 in February 2023 compared to January 2023, bringing the total to 30.0 million. However, the unemployment rate remained largely unchanged at 3.7% during the same period. The number of people who have been unemployed for over 12 months saw a slight increase in the latest three-month period.

Economic inactivity, on the other hand, decreased by 0.2% to 21.3% in November 2022 to January 2023. This was driven by people aged 16 to 24 years, and by people who are inactive because they are students or retired.

However, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 51,000 on the quarter to 1,124,000 in December 2022 to February 2023. This marks the eighth consecutive period of declining vacancies and reflects uncertainty across industries, as respondents continue to cite economic pressures as a factor in holding back recruitment.

The report also showed growth in average total pay (including bonuses) of 5.7%, while growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6.5% among employees in November 2022 to January 2023. Average regular pay growth for the private sector was 7.0%, compared to 4.8% for the public sector. However, in real terms, growth in total and regular pay fell by 3.2% and 2.4%, respectively, after adjusting for inflation.

Labour disputes also saw a decline, with only 220,000 working days lost in January 2023, compared to 822,000 in December 2022. Meanwhile, workforce jobs rose by 211,000 on the quarter to a new record high of 36.4 million, with six of the 20 industry sectors reaching record high levels in December 2022.

Overall, the latest report from the ONS indicates a mixed picture of the UK’s labour market, with modest employment growth and declining vacancies but still some uncertainty across industries.

Lauren Thomas, Glassdoor Economist commented: “Wage growth may be hitting record highs but this is not being felt in workers’ pockets. Glassdoor’s data shows discussion around inflation and the cost of living is up 171% year-on-year. Employers need to consider how they can help their workforce through this difficult period – whether that’s through pay rises, other benefits, or improving working conditions.

Kate Shoesmith, Deputy Chief Executive of REC, said: “Our analysis shows that labour and skills shortages could cost the UK economy up to £39 billion per year from 2024 – around the same as two Elizabeth lines. Government and business must reach out and help those furthest away from the labour market into work if we are to fill new job vacancies – which our own data shows hit a 14-month high in February.

“Firms can also step up on how they employ and engage. The government can help business by taking the big opportunity in the Budget tomorrow to provide clarity and stability on its growth plans. It is a big test for the Chancellor on skills, transport and tax. We need to see creative and revitalised policies on tackling economic inactivity, from rethinking low-skilled immigration policy to support for the over 50s.”

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