Labour Market Statistics, March 2022

 | Institute for Employment Studies | Mar 2022

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This briefing note sets out analysis of the Labour Market Statistics published this morning. The analysis mainly draws on Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, which is the main household survey that collects official figures on employment, unemployment and economic inactivity and covers the period up to January 2022 (the most recent quarter being November 2021 to January 2022). The briefing also includes findings from the ONS Vacancy Survey, which collects employer data on open vacancies; and from the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey, which collects pay data from businesses in order to estimate Average Weekly Earnings (AWE). The Vacancy Survey includes data up to February 2020, and the Wages and Salaries Survey to January 2022.

Unemployment fell sharply in today’s figures, dipping below 4% for the first time since the start of the pandemic. However this disguises continued falls in labour force participation overall, with economic inactivity rising by 100 thousand in the last quarter and employment flat overall. There remain nearly 600 thousand fewer people in work, and 400 thousand more people out of work and not looking, than before the pandemic began.

The underlying story behind these figures will be familiar to regular readers of these briefings – with economic inactivity for older people continuing to rise, a worrying shift towards worklessness due to ill health and retirement, and vacancies continuing to rise to new record levels as employers struggle to fill their jobs.

Today’s briefing includes more detailed analysis of trends for young people, drawing out the extent to which youth participation has been supported by full-time education and the recovery in employment has been dominated by students; and analysis of earnings growth overall and by industry.

Looking ahead, today’s figures reiterate yet again that we need new measures – from employers and government – that are focused on addressing the participation crisis that we are facing now rather than the unemployment crisis that we (thankfully) averted. Employers have a key role to play, through more inclusive recruitment, better job design (particularly around shift notice, patterns and flexibility), improved induction and in-work training, and workplace support with health, caring and wider needs. However government also needs to act. At the Budget next month, we need to see a new ‘Plan for Participation’ to help those out of work to get back in, and this needs to be open to all of those who are out of work and want help to find a job – not just those on benefits.