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January 2024 Labour Market Overview highlights

The latest Labour Market Overview by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the following highlights for the final months of 2023.

Vacancies decline yet remain above pre-COVID levels:
The report reveals a continued decline in job vacancies, with the estimated number of vacancies in the UK decreasing by 49,000 in October to December 2023, marking the 18th consecutive quarterly fall. However, despite this prolonged decrease, the current estimate of 934,000 vacancies remains above the pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.


Robust earnings growth:
Annual growth in regular earnings (excluding bonuses) reached 6.6% in September to November 2023. Simultaneously, the annual growth in employees’ average total earnings, including bonuses, was 6.5% during the same period. In real terms, accounting for inflation, total pay rose by 1.3% year-on-year, and regular pay saw a 1.4% increase.

Lowest working days lost due to labour disputes since May 2022:
The report highlights a significant drop in working days lost due to labour disputes in November 2023, totalling 69,000. This marks the lowest number since May 2022. Notably, over half of the labour disputes that did occur were in the transport, storage, information, and communication industries.

Payrolled employees decrease in December 2023:
Estimates of payrolled employees in the UK for December 2023 show a decrease of 24,000 from the November 2023 figure, settling at 30.2 million. However, the number of payrolled employees is well above pre pandemic levels.

Alternative employment estimates introduced:
Due to increased uncertainty surrounding the Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates, the ONS have introduced an alternative series of estimates for September to November 2023. These figures indicate a 0.1 percentage point increase in the UK employment rate (16 to 64 years), bringing it to 75.8%. The unemployment rate (16 years and over) remained largely unchanged at 4.2%, while the economic inactivity rate (16 to 64 years) decreased by 0.1 percentage points to 20.8%.

What do these statistics mean for you?

The fact that job vacancies have decreased but the number of payrolled employees has also dropped suggests that there has been an overall reduction in jobs available. This may be further supported by the fact that while the unemployment rate has stayed unchanged, it is up on the year and remains higher than pre-pandemic rates.

With the tight economic climate, businesses may well be looking at their workforce and reviewing the value of certain roles, not replacing leavers or even making some roles redundant.

This highlights the value of taking time to think strategically about your business. While no one wants to make an employee redundant, an employee leaving does provide a trigger point for reviewing the requirements of a role. Questioning whether a leaving employee needs to be directly replaced can open the door to savings, or to improving business processes and efficiency.

Strategic thinking about your business often starts with having a plan in place that you can regularly review. If you need help putting together a strategic plan for your business, please get in touch. We will be pleased to help you!


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