ONS Labour Market Data: December’s Quarterly Overview

  • Tuesday, December 12, 2023
GCE ONS Dec 2023
  • The latest labour market data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed challenges for workers, job seekers, and employers.
  • While the rates of employment and unemployment showed little change, vacancies and wage growth once again dropped.  
  • The Growth Company (GC) offers a range of services to help individuals into sustained employment, as well as to make sure employers find the right candidates in a competitive market.

Earlier this week, the ONS published its latest quarterly overview of the UK labour market. The report included estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity, wage growth, and other employment-related statistics.[i]

The data highlighted the ongoing impact of weak economic growth, elevated inflation, and higher interest rates on employment, with vacancies and pay growth both falling.

Quarterly Employment Data

The national employment rate stood at 75.7 percent between August and October 2023 – largely unchanged on the previous valid three-month period (July to September 2023). The unemployment rate flatlined at 4.2 percent. The economic inactivity rate also remained steady at 20.9 percent.

Quarterly Job Vacancies

From August to October 2023, the number of job vacancies stood at 949,000 – a reduction of 45,000, or 4.5 percent, on July to September, and the 17th consecutive decline. The survey observed that this is the “longest consecutive run of quarterly falls ever recorded, but still above pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels”.

Quarterly Wage Growth

During August to October, average total pay growth, which includes bonuses, was 7.3 percent. Average total regular pay growth, which excludes bonuses, was 7.2 percent – a 0.5 percent drop on the previous period.  

According to the ONS, “in real terms (adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH)), annual growth for total pay rose on the year by 1.3%, and regular pay rose on the year by 1.4%.”

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[i]  October’s report was delayed due to concerns over the accuracy of Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates. To address these concerns, the ONS changed its methodology. Instead of using LFS data, the statistics body referred to Pay as You Earn Real-Time Information and the Claimant Count for the periods from May to July 2023 onwards. Their latest overview explained that this approach aims to provide “a more holistic view … while the LFS estimates are uncertain”. The newest figures are therefore described as “experimental estimates”, complicating, though not invalidating, like-for-like comparisons with previous datasets.