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Real wages continue to fall

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417,000 working days lost because of labour disputes in October

The Office of National Statistics has released its latest Labour Market stats and the UK has recorded its second largest fall in real wage growth since records began in 2001. The latest official jobs figures also highlight the impact that strikes are having on the economy.

The cost-of-living crisis continues to take centre stage as real wages fall

Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay (excluding bonuses) among employees was the same at 6.1% in August to October 2022; for regular pay, this is the strongest growth rate seen outside of the coronavirus pandemic period.

Average regular pay growth for the private sector was 6.9% in August to October 2022, and 2.7% for the public sector; outside of the height of the pandemic period, this is the largest growth rate seen for the private sector and is among the largest differences between the private sector and public sector growth rates that has been seen.

In real terms (adjusted for inflation) over the year, total and regular pay both fell by 2.7%; this is slightly smaller than the record fall in real regular pay seen in April to June 2022 (3%) but still remains among the largest falls in growth since comparable records began in 2001.

The UK employment rate for August to October 2022 has increased by 0.2% on the quarter to 75.6% but is still below COVID-19 levels. Although the number of employees increased over the last three months, the number of self-employed workers decreased.

Payrolled employees for November 2022 showed another monthly increase, up 107,000 on the revised October 2022 figures, to a record 29.9 million.

Unemployment magically increases

The unemployment rate for August to October 2022 increased by 0.1% on the quarter to 3.7%. In the latest three-month period, the number of people unemployed for up to six months increased, and this increase was seen across all age groups.

Talk of recession continues even though the economic inactivity rate decreased by 0.2% to 21.5% in August to October 2022. The ONS stated that the decrease in economic inactivity during the latest three months was driven by those aged 50 to 64 years. Looking at economic inactivity by reason, the quarterly decrease was driven by those inactive because they are retired.

In September to November 2022, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 65,000 on the quarter to 1,187,000 but despite five consecutive quarterly falls, the number of vacancies remain at historically high levels. It’s believed the fall in the number of vacancies reflect uncertainty across industries, as respondents continue to cite economic pressures as a factor in holding back on recruitment.

There were 417,000 working days lost because of labour disputes in October 2022, which is the highest since November 2011.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive at the REC said: “Today’s data shows businesses and candidates are reacting to the economic situation, but the overall picture remains one of strong demand from employers. With employment and unemployment both rising slightly, and economic inactivity dropping a little, it may be that the long period of growing inactivity through the pandemic is ending. That would be good news for incomes for people returning to the labour market and for economic growth.”

Joanne Frew, Global Head of Employment & Pensions at DWF, also commented: “With industrial unrest at a peak, employers are grappling with the ongoing challenge of balancing calls for increased pay against rising business costs. As always it will be essential for employers to focus on fostering a positive workplace culture and for leaders to communicate clearly and transparently with the workforce to help create a sense of calm.”


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