Unemployment back to pre-coronavirus pandemic level

Employment in the UK: March 2022

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period, and returning to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.3%, 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, and 1.1 percentage point higher than before the coronavirus pandemic.
  • November 2021 to January 2022 estimates show a continuing recovery in the labour market compared with the previous three-month period (August to October 2021), with an increase in the employment rate and a decrease in the unemployment rate, while economic inactivity increased on the quarter.
  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.6%, 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period, but 1.0 percentage points lower than before the coronavirus pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020).

A continuing recovery in the labour market

Employment in the UK: January 2022

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.1%, 0.1 percentage points higher than before the pandemic but 0.4 percentage points lower than the previous three-month period.
  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.3%, 1.0 percentage point higher than before the pandemic and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period.
  • September to November 2021 estimates showed a continuing recovery in the labour market with an increase in the employment rate and a decrease in the unemployment rate compared with the previous three-month period (June to August 2021).
  • Total hours worked decreased slightly compared with the previous three-month period and are still below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, despite the loosening of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.
  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.3%: 1.0 percentage point higher than before the pandemic and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous three-month period.

Unemployment falling

Employment in the UK: April 2021: ONS

December 2020 to February 2021 estimates show a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate, the first quarterly decrease since October to December 2019. The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.9%, 0.9 percentage points higher than a year earlier but 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.9%, 0.7 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.1%, 1.4 percentage points lower than a year earlier and 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

Unemployment rises to 5.1%

Labour Market Overview: February 2021 – ONS

The UK unemployment rate, in the three months to December 2020, was estimated at 5.1%, 1.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

The UK employment rate, in the three months to December 2020, was estimated at 75.0%, 1.5 percentage points lower than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

In January 2021, 726,000 fewer people were in payrolled employment when compared with February 2020.

In January 2021, 83,000 more people were in payrolled employment when compared with December 2020; this is the second consecutive monthly increase.

What’s happening in the labour market?

Labour market overview, UK: July 2020 – ONS

For March to May 2020:

  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for all people was 3.9%; 0.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier but largely unchanged on the quarter
  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for men was 4.0%; this is 0.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier but 0.2 percentage points down on the quarter
  • the estimated UK unemployment rate for women was 3.8%; this is 0.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.1 percentage points higher on the quarter

A larger than usual proportion of those leaving employment are not currently looking for a new job and therefore becoming economically inactive, rather than unemployed. In addition, an increased number of respondents who were previously unemployed have moved to economic inactivity in March to May 2020, suggesting that some who were previously unemployed are no longer looking for work.

For March to May 2020:

  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for all people was 20.4%; this is down by 0.4 percentage points on the year but up 0.2 percentage points on the quarter
  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for men was 16.5%; this is up by 0.1 percentage points on the year and up a joint record high of 0.5 percentage points on the quarter
  • the estimated economic inactivity rate for women was 24.3%; this is down by 0.9 percentage points on the year and down by 0.1 percentage points on the quarter

Those who are economically inactive and who want a job increased by a record 257,000 on the year and a record 253,000 on the quarter, while those who do not want a job decreased by a record 414,000 on the year and 161,000 on the quarter. This suggests that people who want employment are not currently looking for work, and further explains why we are not seeing a large rise in unemployment.

For March to May 2020:

  • the estimated employment rate for all people was 76.4%; this is 0.3 percentage points up on the year but 0.2 percentage points down on the quarter
  • the estimated employment rate for men was 80.1%; this is 0.1 percentage points down on the year and 0.4 percentage points down on the quarter
  • the estimated employment rate for women was 72.7%; this is 0.7 percentage points up on the year but largely unchanged on the quarter

Despite the estimated fall in employment of 126,000 on the quarter, the estimated number of redundancies has not increased significantly over the period. Instead, experimental estimates based on returns for individual weeks suggest the number of respondents starting a new job declined greatly through the March to May period compared with the same period in previous years.