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DWF's employment law experts examine latest labour market data

16 November 2023
DWF's employment law experts, Joanne Frew, Ann Frances Cooney and Marie-Claire Logue, take a look at the latest labour market data for the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

UK wide data

The latest UK labour market figures from the ONS for the period July to September 2023 show continued resilience in the market. The headlines for the period show the UK employment rate decreased by 0.1% to 75.7%.  The UK unemployment rate was largely unchanged on the quarter at 4.2% and the UK economic inactivity rate was also largely unchanged at 20.9%. 

Vacancies have continued to fall for the 16th consecutive period, with a fall in 16 of the 18 industry sectors.  In August to October 2023, the estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell by 58,000 on the quarter to 957,000.

Annual growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) in Great Britain remains high.  In July to September 2023 annual growth in regular pay was 7.7%, slightly below the previous periods, but is still among the highest annual growth rates since comparable records began in 2001. 

The continued fall in vacancies indicates that the jobs market may be starting to slow in response to rising labour costs.   Despite the fall in vacancies we are still seeing some movement in the labour market as employees seek out higher pay packages to meet rising costs. 

Scotland data

During the period July to September 2023 Scotland's labour market remained strong despite ongoing economic challenges.  The unemployment rate decreased, while the employment rate was slightly higher and the inactivity rate increased.  The adjusted experimental unemployment rate in Scotland was 3.9%, down 0.1% over the quarter.  By way of comparison Scotland's unemployment rate was below the UK rate of 4.2%.  The adjusted experimental employment rate in Scotland was 74.3%, slightly higher than the previous quarter.  Scotland's adjusted experimental employment rate was below the UK rate of 75.7%. 

Early seasonally adjusted estimates for October 2023 from HMRC Pay As You Earn Real Time Information indicate that median monthly pay for payrolled employees in Scotland was up 6.7% compared with October 2022.  With labour costs rising employers are having to look to reduce outgoings in other areas and many are taking a more cautious approach to recruitment.  We will have to wait and see whether wage inflation continues at the same rate. 

Northern Ireland data

The latest figures from the Northern Ireland Labour Market Report show a relatively robust labour market despite the economic climate.  The latest Northern Ireland seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period July to September 2023 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.1%.  This was a decrease of 0.6% over the quarter and a decrease of 0.9% over the year.  The employment rate increased by 0.8% over the quarter and by 2.2% over the year to 72.2%. 

Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that Northern Ireland employees had a median monthly pay of £2,100 in October 2023, an increase of 0.1% over the month and an increase of 6% over the year. 

Rachel Richardson, Director in the Employment team of DWF in Belfast commented: "With labour costs remaining high, many employers are taking a more cautious approach to recruitment.  However, we are still seeing some movement in the labour market as employees seek out higher pay in order to meet rising costs". 

Further Reading