Number of UK payroll employees increased 90,000 in May from April; number of payroll employees at a record 29.6 million: ONS

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LONDON , June 14, 2022 (press release) –

Estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

Main points

The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for February to April 2022 show that over the quarter there was an increase in the employment rate, while unemployment and economic inactivity rates decreased.

The UK employment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points on the quarter to 75.6% but is still below pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels. The number of full-time employees increased over the quarter to a record high however, this was partially offset by a decrease in the number of part-time employees. The number of self-employed workers fell during the coronavirus pandemic and has remained low, although they have increased over the quarter.

The most timely estimate of payrolled employees for May 2022 shows a monthly increase, up 90,000 on the revised April 2022, to a record 29.6 million.

Total actual weekly hours worked increased by 12.2 million hours to 1.04 billion hours in February to April 2022, compared with the previous quarter. However, this is still 7.6 million below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. Average actually weekly hours worked have now returned to levels similar to those seen before the coronavirus pandemic, with the average hours worked by part-time workers 0.6 hours above their pre-coronavirus levels. Consequently, the shortfall in total hours compared with pre-coronavirus is down to the reduced numbers in employment.

The unemployment rate for February to April 2022 decreased by 0.2 percentage points on the quarter to 3.8%. Those unemployed for up to six months increased over the latest three-month period, the largest increase since late 2020. However, this was offset by decreases in those unemployed for over six months, with those unemployed for between 6 and 12 months decreasing to a record low. Those unemployed for over 12 months also continued to decrease.

The economic inactivity rate decreased by 0.1 percentage points to 21.3% in February to April 2022. The decrease in economic inactivity compared with the previous three-month period was largely driven by those economically inactive, because they were students.

The number of job vacancies in March to May 2022 rose to a new record of 1,300,000. However, the rate of growth in vacancies continued to slow down.

Growth in employees' average total pay (including bonuses) was 6.8% and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 4.2% in February to April 2022. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), growth in total pay was 0.4% but regular pay fell on the year by 2.2%; strong bonus payments have kept recent real total pay growth positive. Previous months' strong growth rates were affected upwards by base and compositional effects. These initial temporary factors have worked their way out. However, we are now comparing the latest period with a period where certain sectors had increasing numbers of employees on furlough because of the winter 2020 to 2021 lockdown. Therefore, a small amount of base effect will be present for these sectors. This will not be to the degree we saw when comparing periods at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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