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December 2019

The labour market figures published on 17 December are modestly positive with a potential late Christmas present for the newly re-elected government.

View analysis for December 2019.

  • Unemployment is 1,281,000, down by 25,000 from last month’s published figure (quarterly headline is down by 13,000) and the unemployment rate at 3.8%, showed no change on last month and also on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,240,200, and is up by 28,800 on last month, and the claimant rate is 3.5%.
  • The number of workless young people (not in employment, full-time education or training) is 974,000, and has fallen by 12,000 on the quarter, representing 14.1% of the youth population. This has fallen by 0.2 percentage points.
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 473,000, and fell by 15,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.6 unemployed people per vacancy.
  • The employment rate is 76.2% and has risen by 0.1 percentage points on last month’s published figure and showed no change in the preferred quarterly measure.

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

The quarterly numbers for employment and unemployment released today are good news as they are better than expected given the poor recent economic growth outturns. The growth numbers released last week indicated that the UK output was flat in the three months to October, and this follows weak growth over the first half of this year. In the quarter employment rose modestly and unemployment fell modestly by 24,000 and 13,000 respectively. Less positively, inactivity amongst people of working age rose in the quarter, particularly for long-term sick and disabled people. The workforce jobs numbers were also positive, rising by 77,000 in the three months to September. However, these numbers have been strong for the last year in contrast with the official employment numbers taken from the Labour Force Survey.

Read full comment.

Chart 12: Employment rate in the UK

The employment rate was up by over the quarter, to 76.2%. Within the quarter, the rate has reversed earlier losses. The new maximum is actually 0.03 percentage points over the preceding quarter.

Chart 9: Vacancies – whole economy survey

Vacancies (in the Office for National Statistics survey of the whole economy) continued falling this month, to 794,000, the lowest level in more than two years. As the number of vacancies is quite volatile, and frequently revised, the Office for National Statistics uses a three-month average.

Chart 13: Claimants for inactive benefits and the economically inactive – inactivity benefits

The number of people inactive owing to long-term sickness rose strongly, as did the benefit figure.

This chart shows claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, and Universal Credit planning for work and those with no work requirements (both out of work) (the orange dots), compared with survey figures for the economically inactive owing to long-term sickness.

Chart 16: Unemployment rate quarterly change in regions – August to October 2019

Seven regions showed an improvement in the unemployment rate this quarter. Five showed a worsening. The rises were led by the North East and the West Midlands.