In the latest labour market report, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that the estimate of payrolled employees in the UK for September 2023 remains largely unchanged, with a decrease of 11,000 compared to the revised August 2023 figure, totalling 30.1 million.

However, it is important to note that this September estimate is provisional and may undergo revisions as more data becomes available.

Neil Carberry, REC Chief Executive, noted that throughout 2023, “the jobs market has been normalising after the post-pandemic boom. While vacancies are dropping, they remain above their levels of 2019. But sector demand is varying widely, and workers are facing having to make more transitions to new areas to find new roles. This transition is a primary driver of rising unemployment – though it is still low by historic standards.”

Revisions in Employee Growth

UK payrolled employee growth for August 2023, when compared with July 2023, has been revised from an initial decrease of 1,000, as reported in the last bulletin, to a more substantial decrease of 8,000.

Experimental Statistics Introduced

Due to increased uncertainty surrounding the Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates, the ONS has published an alternative series of estimates of UK employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity as experimental statistics. These estimates are based on data from Pay as You Earn Real-Time Information and the Claimant Count, covering the period from May to July 2023 onwards, offering a comprehensive view of the labour market during these uncertain times.

“The latest figures from the ONS (described as experimental statistics based on alternative data rather than the Labour Force Survey estimates usually used) representing the period between June and August 2023 show continued strength despite economic challenges,” says Employment partner at DWF, Joanne Frew’.

She adds that this “highlights for the period show a UK employment rate of 75.7 percent, a 0.3 percent decrease compared to the previous quarter. The UK unemployment rate for the same period was 4.2 percent, a 0.2 percent increase compared with the previous quarter”

Changes in Employment, Unemployment, and Inactivity

The experimental statistics for June to August 2023 show a 0.3 percentage point decrease in the UK employment rate to 75.7 percent compared to the previous quarter (March to May 2023). The unemployment rate has increased by 0.2 percentage points to 4.2 percent, and the economic inactivity rate has risen by 0.1 percentage point to 20.9 percent.

Vacancies Decline for 15th Consecutive Period

In July to September 2023, the estimated number of vacancies in the UK has fallen by 43,000, marking the 15th consecutive period of declining job openings. This decrease in vacancies has been observed across 14 of the 18 industry sectors.

Robust Pay Growth

Annual growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) in Great Britain reached 7.8 percent in June to August 2023, one of the highest annual growth rates in over two decades. Annual growth in employees’ average total pay (including bonuses) was 8.1 percent. However, this total annual growth rate has been influenced by one-off payments made in the NHS and Civil Service during June, July, and August 2023. In real terms, accounting for inflation (CPIH), annual growth for total pay increased by 1.3 percent, and regular pay grew by 1.1 percent on the year.

Labour Disputes Impacting Working Days

A total of 119,000 working days were lost in August 2023 due to labour disputes across the UK. The majority of these strikes occurred in the health and social work sector.

Days lost to sickness

The CEO of Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM), Nick Pahl, said: “The latest ONS figures show that much remains to be done to improve the UK’s economic outlook and get people back to work. “Long-term sickness continues to be a significant barrier to people returning to the workplace and occupational health, the professional discipline of health and well-being at work, will be a key part in helping them do so. “SOM will continue to call for universal occupational health coverage in all of Britain’s workplaces and will work with government and the private sector towards achieving this.”

The labour market in the UK remains a subject of interest and concern as the country navigates economic changes and uncertainties in employment and workforce dynamics.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.