DWF employment law experts examine latest labour market data

Employment law experts at DWF take a look at the latest labor market data for the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Despite a stable labor market, large-scale industrial unrest continues

UK wide data

The latest ONS employment figures for the period November 2022 to January 2023 continue to show a stable labor market. The highlights of the period show a UK employment rate of 75.7%, up 0.1% from the previous quarter. The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.7%, broadly unchanged from the previous quarter. The UK inactivity rate was estimated at 21.3%, 0.2% lower than in the previous three-month period. The World Cup has reportedly helped Britain avoid a recession and will no doubt also have helped sustain robust employment rates during this period as pubs and restaurants saw a surge in trade.

Commenting on the UK data, Joanne Frew, Global Head of Employment and Pensions at DWF said: “Despite a relatively stable market, there is still a high level of industrial unrest, with young doctors taking part in a three-day strike this week. Alongside labor disputes, attracting and retaining employees remains a concern for employers amid the ongoing cost of living crisis. Workers are demanding higher wages and it is often the case that the employer simply cannot meet the demand has never been more important Employers are looking for new and innovative ways to attract and retain talent – ​​from increased flexibility like “work from anywhere” to employee discount programs.

“While retaining a productive core workforce is vital, some employers will inevitably consider restructuring in the near future, which will have an impact on the labor market in the short to medium term. In addition, the latest figures show that between December 2022 and February 2023, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 51,000 over the quarter, with economic pressures leading to a cautious approach to hiring. However, the number of vacancies remains Post up, which increases pressure on the government to encourage those who have left the workforce to return to the labor market.”

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Scotland data

The latest employment figures for Scotland remain relatively stable despite the current economic climate. Headlines for the period between November 2022 and January 2023 show an estimated employment rate of 76.5%, up 0.5% on the quarter. For comparison, Scotland’s estimated employment rate was higher than the UK rate of 75.7%. Scotland’s unemployment rate was 3.1%, down 0.2% from the previous quarter. Scotland’s unemployment rate was below the UK rate of 3.7%. The labor market in Scotland has again remained robust. The reported figures reflect a period of heightened economic activity in the run up to Christmas.

Commenting on the Scottish figures, Ann Frances Cooney, Partner who heads the Scottish employment law practice, added: “Looking ahead we can expect the labor market to be affected to some extent by what may be inevitable restructuring by a number of employers The cost of living crisis continues to take its toll The employment rate could be challenged in the short to medium term.

“With industrial action hitting a decade high, we may see further industrial unrest in Scotland as prices continue to rise and employers struggle to meet demands for higher wages. Employee engagement with a focus on core talent is critical.”

Data from Northern Ireland

The latest labor market release shows improvements, with some statistically significant annual changes in NI. The number of staff positions increased by 3.5% during the year, with the proportion of employed persons aged 16 to 65 increasing by 3.1% during the year to 71.8%. In addition, the inactivity rate fell by 2.5% to 26.4% over the course of the year. The unemployment rate has returned to its pre-pandemic position and jobs have hit a record high (with wage earners up 0.4% on the month alone), with the NI unemployment rate remaining below the UK rate.

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There was a quarterly and annual increase in headcount, which had reached a series high in December 2022. This was largely driven by the service sector, with positive reports also coming from construction and manufacturing services.

Finally, in February 2023, the department confirmed 20 layoffs, bringing the rolling 12-month total to 940. This is the fifth straight month that the rolling 12-month total of confirmed layoffs has been below 1,000. In February 2023, 440 proposed redundancies were reported to the ministry, bringing the total number of proposed redundancies for 12 months to 2,180. This was an increase from the most recent rolling 12-month totals and the highest total reported since April 2022, but is still well below the long-term trend.

Commenting on the figures, Marie-Claire Logue, Associate in the Employment Team in Belfast, said: “Like the rest of the UK, there is still a high level of industrial unrest in Northern Ireland, despite a fairly stable market with teachers and healthcare workers taking part in strikes. As the cost of living crisis continues, employers are still concerned about recruiting and retaining employees. This was confirmed by the figures, with companies in all four main sectors increasing their headcount in February. Employee engagement will continue to play a key role as employers look to attract and retain talent. However, with NI employment growing at its fastest pace in 15 months (and outperforming other regions and nations in the UK) it is positive that Confidence is rising in the NI job market.”


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