ONS stats show increase in economic inactivity
The latest figures from the ONS have been released and what stands out is that even though average pay rises for the first quarter are at an average of 4% (excluding bonuses), this appears well below inflation. However, in real terms (adjusted for inflation), growth in total pay was 0.4% and regular pay fell on the year at negative 1.0%. Strong bonus payments over the past six months have kept recent real total pay growth positive but employers may find it even harder to retain talent through salary increases alone as the cost-of-living crisis continues in the UK.
The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) showed that for December 2021 to February 2022 the employment rate remains unchanged on the quarter, while the unemployment rate decreased. Over the same period, the economic inactivity rate has increased slightly which signals a slight dip in the economic rebound following the end of the pandemic with inactivity increasing by 0.2 percentage points to 21.4% from December to February 2022.
There was a noteworthy increase, albeit small, in the number of payrolled employees for March 2022 which is up 35,000 on the revised February 2022 to a record 29.6 million.
The report showed that once again, the number of job vacancies in January to March 2022 rose to a new record of 1,288,000, with the rate of growth in vacancies continuing to slow down.
Jon Keeble, employment partner at DWF commented on the latest report: “The latest ONS labour market figures demonstrate continued resilience in the labour market. The highlights for the period between December 2021 and February 2022 show a largely unchanged employment rate of 75.5%.
“With legal requirements largely removed across the UK and a shift over to personal responsibility we are very much in the phase of having to live with COVID-19. Although employers are now faced with a number of practical challenges as we enter this next chapter, the relaxation of restrictions should have a positive effect on the labour market.
“We are yet to see what impact the cost-of-living crisis will have on the labour market and whether the Chancellor’s Spring Statement and the rise in the National Minimum Wage will provide sufficient support. Undoubtedly, employees who are struggling to cope financially will be seeking out those employers, which are able to provide the most attractive rewards package.”
James Reed, Chairman of Reed.co.uk, also commented: “The economy is facing a crunch point as businesses contend with serious challenges, from rapidly rising inflation to severe labour shortages. The jobs boom that began last year continues to be reflected in the ONS’s labour market statistics. With job postings on Reed.co.uk in March increasing 18% year-on-year and 14% month-on-month, this trend shows little sign of slowing. But with economic growth now as low as 0.1% and unemployment at historic lows, the jobs boom is in danger of becoming a jobs overload.”
“The difficulties businesses now face in hiring staff, are having a knock-on effect on supply chains, production output and the quality of goods and services. This is slowing the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
“There are now 8.8 million people who are economically inactive in the UK, which is 600,000 more than at the start of the pandemic. This is a symptom of what I call ‘The Great Lie Down’, with many workers leaving the workforce altogether, some through long term sickness and others preferring early retirement or different lifestyle choices. If these workers are to be coaxed back, they will need convincing with attractive employment arrangements, higher wages and better conditions and benefits.
“Currently, less than 20% of these people who are economically inactive say they would like a regular, paid job. However, if it was possible to help this group find work then that would be of great benefit to both them and the economy.”