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January 2019

The labour market figures published on 22 January are another set of positive numbers following on from last month's figures. However, claimant unemployment has continued to rise and was above a million in December 2018 as we had anticipated last month.

View analysis for January 2019.

  • Unemployment is 1,372,000, has fallen by 8,000 from last month’s published figure, but is up over the quarter by 8,000, and the unemployment rate 4.0%, fell by 0.1 percentage points on last month and was unchanged on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,016,300. It rose by 20,800 on last month, and the claimant rate is 2.8%.
  • The number of workless young people (not in employment, full-time education or training) is 955,000, which is down by 6,000 on the quarter, representing 13.7% of the youth population (no change).
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 511,000, and is up by 47,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.6 unemployed people per vacancy. Learning and Work Institute estimates this figure may rise if unemployment follows the claimant count up.
  • The employment rate is 75.8% (up 0.1 percentage points on last month’s published figure and also up by 0.2 percentage points in the preferred quarterly measure).

Duncan Melville, chief economist at Learning and Work Institute, commented:

Today is ground hog day for the labour market numbers. The pattern of the numbers is precisely the same as those announced last month: employment was again up substantially in the quarter (September to November 2018 compared to June to August 2018), economic inactivity down substantially again amongst people of working age and unemployment up slightly. The proportion of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job also dipped again and is at its lowest level for nearly 10 years. Annual wage growth stayed at 3.3% in November, and after accounting for inflation, real wage growth was 1.1%. This is all good news and the rise in employment and fall in inactivity, in particular, suggest that people are re-entering the labour market and moving into work.

These numbers are surprising given the economic background, especially the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit with the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU very shortly with no deal still very much a possibility. Whatever our future holds some comfort can be taken from the fact that the labour market, in which people will face the immediate future, is remarkably robust.

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Paul Bivand,  associate director for statistics and analysis at Learning and Work Institute's said:

The claimant count has risen over 1 million this month, as we have been predicting for several months. It has risen by 254,000, or 33%, since February 2016. Unfortunately the response of DWP has been to create a new version of the claimant count, that does not show the fall to 762,200 in 2016, and showing little change since then.

It is important to maintain high levels of trust in official statistics. The independent Office for National Statistics has a claimant count that we report - which has 'experimental' status due to the change to Universal Credit. A consistent time series approximating international definitions of unemployment using benefit data would be extremely helpful. We have some concerns that the addition of this DWP series may not be that series.’

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Chart 8: Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimant count

The ONS headline Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimant count rose by 20,760 in December, taking the total to 1,016,289. ONS' claimant count before seasonal adjustment increased by 19,670 to 986,293. This latter change is directly comparable to the local level claimant count changes published today. L&W's seasonally adjusted estimate has risen by 21,846 to 1,016,824

Chart 16: Employment rate in the UK

The employment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points over the quarter, to 75.8%.

Chart 6: Young people not in employment, full-time education or training

The number of out of work young people who are not in full-time education (955,000) has fallen in the past quarter by 6,000 , or 0.6%. The latest month's figure is up by 9,000. The fall was among the inactive, with the number of unemployed young people not in full-time education or training rising.

Chart 19: Employment rate quarterly change in regions – September to November 2018

This quarter, 10 regions showed a rise in the employment rate, led by the South East and Wales. The employment rate fell in two regions, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands.