Pay and working hours rise as employment falls

Pay and working hours rise as employment falls

Latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have painted a mixed picture of the state of employment in the UK, with employment continuing to fall but working hours and pay on the up.

According to the ONS figures, the number of payrolled employees has fallen by 828,000 since February 2020, with the estimated employment rate now at 75.2%. This is 1.1 percentage points down on the same period the previous year and 0.4 percentage points down compared with the previous quarter (June to August 2020).

The data shows 32.50 million people aged 16+ were in employment – some 398,000 fewer than a year earlier. The decline represents the largest annual decrease since December 2009 to February 2010. It also revealed the number of payrolled employees fell by 2.7% in December alone compared with December 2019.

But despite the fall in employment, the ONS found pay and  working hours have been rising.

Between June-August 2020 and September-November 2020, total weekly working hours in the UK rose by 89.0m, or 10.0%, to 979.9m hours. It also finds average actual weekly hours worked are up 2.8 hours on the quarter, to 30.1 hours.

Meanwhile median monthly pay increased to £1,930. This is an increase of 4.9% compared with the same period of the previous year. It also found growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among workers during September to November 2020 increased to 3.6%, with growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) up by 3.6%.

But the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said the data is indicative of yet more tough times ahead unless the government acts now.

Jon Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, said: “Job losses are not an easy or cheap option for businesses, costing around £11,000 per individual. Many of the jobs already lost, or about to be lost, stand to be viable again in just a few months’ time. This is why the CIPD is calling for the furlough scheme to be extended until at least the end of June.”