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MNI DATA IMPACT: UK Employment Up In Dec, Earnings Accelerate

Redundancies Hit Record high, Providing Evidence of a Bifurcated Employment Market


UK employment rose in December for the first time since Covid-19 ravaged the economy, but redundancies also hit a record high, providing further evidence of the split in UK employment, with lower-paid jobs most likely to be cut, data released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics showed.

Employment picked up by 52,0000 between November and December, according to PAYE data compiled by HMRC, leaving employment down by 828,000 since March and by 793,000 over the same period of last year. This RTI series is derived from average job losses over the calendar month. That is the first rise since February, although the series has been subject to heavy revision; employment fell by a revised 57,000 in November, compared to the originally-reported 28,000 drop.

According to the Labour Force Survey, employment declined by 88,000 in the three months to November, better than the forecast of a 104,000 fall, and the smallest three-month decline since the start of the pandemic. That lifted the unemployment rate to 5.0%, the highest since the three months to August 2016, although analysts expected a larger rise to 5.1%.

Staying with the LFS data, unemployment rose by 202,000 over the three months ending in August to 1.72 million, the highest level since the third quarter of 2015. However, Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane has said that he believes unemployment has increased by approximately one million over the same level of last year, higher than the 418,000 rise reflected in the LFS series.

Redundancies increased by 168,000 in the three months to November, or by a record-high 280,000 over the same period of 2019, reaching 395,000, also an all-time high.


Earning growth soared, with real regular weekly earnings hitting a record high of £488 in the three months to November, a 2.8% jump over the same period a year earlier, the biggest rise since the three months to July of 2002. Nominal earnings growth also accelerated, with total pay, including bonuses, jumping by an annual rate of 3.6%, up from 2.8% in the three months to October and the fastest growth since the third quarter of 2019.

However, strong earnings growth reflects a changing profile of employment in recent months with job losses concentrated amongst the young and lower-paid. Had the composition of employment not changed over the past year, total nominal earnings growth would have remained below an annual rate of 2%, according to a National Statistics official.

Vacancies rose by 81,000 to 578,000 in the final three months of the year, but the increase was concentrated in October, after lockdowns took effect in November and December across much of the UK.