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On 6 June 2019, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate a motion moved by Lord Leigh of Hurley (Conservative) on the “latest employment figures and the steps being taken by Her Majesty’s Government to increase employment rates”. This House of Lords Library Briefing provides a brief overview of recent employment statistics and government employment policy, before recommending a selection of further material that may be of assistance to Members preparing for the debate.

UK Employment: Key Statistics

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its most recent set of employment statistics on 14 May 2019. The release included the following key estimates for the first quarter of the year (January to March):

  • The employment rate of those aged 16–64 was 76.1%. This was up from 75.8% in the final quarter of 2018 and represents the joint-highest employment rate estimate since comparable records began in 1971.
  • The male employment rate was 80.3%, slightly higher than for a year earlier when it was 80.0%.
  • The female employment rate was 71.8%, the joint-highest on record. The ONS has attributed the increase in the employment rate for women in recent years in part to “changes to the state pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65 years [of age]”.
  • The highest employment rate of those aged between 16 and 64 was for those in the 35–49 age group, at 85.2%.
  • 32.7 million people aged 16 and over were in employment in the first quarter of this year. This is the highest quarterly figure since records began in 1971 and 354,000 more than were estimated to be in employment a year before.
  • Of these, 27.6 million were paid employees (84.4% of all people in employment)—168,000 more than a year earlier. Meanwhile, 4.9 million were self-employed (15.1% of all people in employment)—180,000 more than a year earlier.
  • In addition, 28.9 million of those in employment were UK nationals, 2.4 million were EU nationals and 1.3 million were non-EU nationals.
  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%. This is the lowest level since October to December 1974.
  • The UK economic inactivity rate—which the ONS defines as a measure of people without a job but who are not classed as unemployed because they have not been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and/or are unable to start work within the next two weeks—was estimated at 20.8%, lower than for a year earlier (21.1%) and “close to a record low”.

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