News | Published April 21 2020

ONS reveals employment at record high pre-lockdown

The Office for National Statistics have revealed that prior to the nationwide lockdown, employment across the country was at a record high.

In the three months leading up to February of this year, UK employment was at an all time high, before Covid-19 hit the country.

According to official figures, 76.6 per cent of people between the ages of 16 and 64 were employed, an increase from the 76.4 per cent in the previous quarter. The ONS have also revealed that unemployment across the country was at four per cent, a slight increase on the previous quarter.

In real terms, this is a total of 33.07 million people in employment in the UK, an increase of 352,000 over a year ago.

Early estimates released for March indicate a drop in the number of paid employees when compared with the previous month. A fall of 0.06 per cent occurred, however, this is still an increase of 0.8 per cent when compared with the same time last year.

The growth in pay has exceeded inflation at 2.9 per cent in the quarter, however, the rate has slowed when compared with mid-2019.

Head of the ONS labour market statistics, David Freeman, said that: "Our final data wholly from before the coronavirus restrictions were in place, showed the labour market was very robust in the three months to February.

"For the first time, we have brought forward information on the number of employees in work using PAYE data to cover a more recent period.

"These experimental statistics show a softening picture in March, but cover the month as a whole, including the period before the coronavirus restrictions were in place."

The extent of the lockdown’s impact on the economy cannot be deduced from the predictions for this month, according to Andrew Sentence, a senior adviser to Cambridge Econometric.

He said: "It won't be until next month that we get the proper picture when even just the first phase of lockdown had an impact

"The figure showing nearly a million new claims of universal credit, shows there's clearly something in the pipeline of a significant increase in unemployment."

The ONS figures have been criticised by experts, who believe they are unhelpful as they predate the country’s lockdown.

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Authored by

Alice Jaspars
Culture Editor
April 21 2020

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