The vagaries and complexities of labour market statistics

Labour market figures for March to May, published today, show official unemployment remains at 3.9% or 1.35 million.    Of course, 9.4 million employees are furloughed, being paid but not actually working. A further 2.4 million of the self-employed are receiving financial support, while another 500,000 are temporarily away from their employment, so while not unemployed are not being paid.   Thus, hours worked each week dropped by 175.3m, or 16.7%, to 877.1m in total, marking the steepest fall since records began in 1971.

However the latest ONS figures show the UK has still shed more than half a million jobs during the coronavirus lockdown – the number of payroll employees fell by 2.2%, or 649,000, compared with March 2020  Also that 250 000 people have left employment but are not actively seeking work.

Unemployment rates for the 18-24 age have increased though – up to 11.1 % of those economically active from 10.5 % in the last quarter (the claimant count amongst those under 25 doubled between March and May.  Particularly significant has been the growth of unemployment amongst full-time students with the figures showing a rise from 12.4 % to 15.9%,  but considering the publicity about campuses closing and students returning to live with parents, it’s maybe more surprising that about a third ( full-time students are not eligible for employment support) are still estimated to be working, about the same as a year ago.

The vagaries and complexities of labour market statistics.

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