UK employment rate reached record high before pandemic

The employment rate in the UK reached a record high in the three months to February before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Market update.

UK employment rate reached record high before pandemic

The figures revealed that 76.6% of people aged 16 to 64 were in paid work, marking an increase from the 76.4% reported in the previous quarter. This increase was 0.4 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points up on the previous quarter.

However, early estimates for March highlighted a subtle decrease in the number of paid employees compared with February. The figures fell by 0.06%, yet they were still 0.8% higher than the same period last year.

Pay in February continued to grow faster than inflation, but its rate of growth has slowed since the middle of last year. The estimated growth for pay excluding bonuses in the three-month period was 2.9%.

The data also highlighted that there were an estimated 33.07 million people in employment, a total of 352,000 more than a year earlier.

However, the figures also revealed that the number of job vacancies plummetted by 52,000 to 795,000 for the quarter.

David Freeman, ONS head of labour market statistics, said: “Our final data wholly from before the coronavirus restrictions were in place, showed the labour market was very robust in the three months to February.

“For the first time, we have brought forward information on the number of employees in work using PAYE data to cover a more recent period.

“These experimental statistics show a softening picture in March, but cover the month as a whole, including the period before the coronavirus restrictions were in place.”

It is expected that next month’s ONS figures will reflect the  downturn in the economy since the beginning of the UK’s lockdown measures. 

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