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March 2019

The labour market figures published on 19 March are an extraordinarily positive and surprising set of monthly numbers.

View analysis for March 2019.

  • Unemployment is 1,338,000, a fall by 25,000 from last month’s published figure (the quarterly headline has fallen by 35,000) and the unemployment rate was 3.9%, down by 0.1 percentage points on last month and fell by 0.2 percentage points on last quarter.
  • The ONS figure for claimant unemployed is 1,039,200, has risen by 27,000 on last month, and the claimant rate is 2.9%.
  • The number of workless young people (not in employment, full-time education or training) is 926,000, down by 13,000 on the quarter, representing 13.3% of the youth population (down by 0.1 percentage points).
  • Youth unemployment (including students) is 500,000, down by 10,000 on the month and up by 5,000 on the quarter.
  • There are 1.6 unemployed people per vacancy. Learning and Work Institute estimates this figure may rise slightly next month.
  • The employment rate is 76.1% and (is up by 0.3 percentage points on last month’s published figure and rose by 0.4 percentage points in the preferred quarterly measure).

Duncan Melville, chief economist at Learning and Work Institute, commented:

Today's labour market numbers are both very unexpected and very positive. Unemployment saw a modest fall of 35,000 in the quarter but that meant that the large increase in employment, up by more than 200,000, was reflected in a very welcome large fall in economic inactivity among people of working age - down by nearly 120,000 - with individuals entering the labour market. The unemployment rate has fallen below 4% for the first time since the mid-1970s, and the inactivity rate is the lowest on record since the ONS' official series starts in 1971. The employment rate is also at a record high on the ONS' official series, having moved above 76% for the first time since 1971. On longer run Bank of England data, the employment rate was last at this level in 1943 during the Second World War.

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Paul Bivand,  associate director for statistics and analysis at Learning and Work Institute's said:

The claimant count figures (which are the main ones used at local authority level) continue up. Within these, there have been sharp switches from Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) to Universal Credit. This is occurring for longer-term JSA claimants as well as new claimants. JSA off-flows are sharply up, for longer-term claimants. For example, the 12-15 month claimant group has an off-flow in February 2019, 72% higher than that in February 2018. Despite this, there are still 258,000 JSA claimants.

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Chart 16: Employment rate in the UK

The employment rate rose by 0.4 percentage points over the quarter, to 76.1%.

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Chart 13: Vacancies – whole economy survey

Vacancies (in the Office for National Statistics survey of the whole economy) fell slightly this month, to 854,000. As the number of vacancies is quite volatile, and frequently revised, the Office for National Statistics uses a three-month average.


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Chart 21: Inactivity rate quarterly change in regions – November 2018 to January 2019

Overall, there was a 0.3 percentage point fall in the inactivity rate. 4 regions showed rises in inactivity, led by the North West and London.

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Chart 8: Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimant count

The ONS headline Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimant count rose by 27,000 in February, taking the total to 1,039,200. ONS' claimant count before seasonal adjustment rose by 65,300 to 1,069,900. This change is directly comparable to the local level claimant count changes published today.

L&W's seasonally adjusted estimate increased by 26,900 to 1,046,900


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