Tag: Inactivity rates

In the midst of the election campaign we can well imagine that economic data are analysed in minute detail by politicians looking to make political capital. Of particular interest are likely to be the labour market numbers. So here we ‘digest’ a few of the latest numbers from the latest ONS labour market release.

The ONS reports that in the three months to February 2010 the number unemployed in the UK rose above the 2½ million mark to stand at 2.502 million. Of these, 61.2% were male and 38.8% female. The rise of 43,000 on the previous three months (i.e. the three months to November) took unemployment to its highest level since the three months to December 1994.

While unemployment rose, employment fell by 90,000 over the same period to 28.824 million. Of those in employment, 53.2% were male and 46.8% female. Employment levels are now at their lowest since the three months to December 2005. The latest unemployment and employment numbers mean that the number of economically active individuals in the three months to February stood at 31.326 million (53.9% male and 46.1% female), down by 47,000 on the previous three months. Therefore the unemployment rate, which is expressed as a percentage of those economically active, has now edged up to 8% (9.1% amongst males and 6.7% amongst females); it was 6.8% a year ago (7.6% amongst males and 5.9% amongst females) and 5.2% two years ago (5.6% amongst males and 4.8% amongst females).

If we look at the number who have been unemployed for at least one year we see a rather worrying trend with a rise of 89,000 over the past three months to some 726,000. This compares with 486,000 in the same period a year ago and 390,000 two years ago. Another potentially problematic trend is the rise in inactivity rates. The proportion of individuals of working age who are now inactive, so neither employed or actively seeking work, rose to 21.5% in the three months to February (17.5% amongst men and 25.8% amongst females), up from 20.7% in the same period last year (16.2% amongst men and 25.7% amongst females).

Finally, part-time employment fell by 30,000 in the three months to February to 7.671 million. However, it rose by 6000 amongst men to 1.880 million. We now observe that 12.2% of men in employment are employed part-time compared with 43.0% of females in employment. Further, of all part-time workers 24.5% – that’s effectively one-quarter – are male, double the share back in 1984 when these numbers were first recorded.


UK Unemployment hits 2.5 million mark The Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Winning and Ilona Billington (21/4/10)
UK unemployment at 16-year high Financial Times, Brian Groom (21/4/10)
UK unemployment increases to 2.5 million BBC News (21/4/10) )
Unemployment breaks through 2.5 million Guardian, Graeme Wearden (21/4/10)
UK unemployment surges to 15-year high The Times, Grainne Gilmore (21/4/10)


Latest on employment and unemployment Office for National Statistics (21/4/10)
Labour Market Statistics, April 2010 Office for National Statistics (21/4/10)
Labour market statistics page Office for National Statistics
For macroeconomic data for EU countries and other OECD countries, such as the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and Korea, see:
AMECO online European Commission


  1. The current rate of unemployment is 8%. During the downturn of the early 1990s it peaked at 10.7%. What might explain this difference? Do you think the current rate may have now peaked?
  2. What might explain the rise in inactivity rates? Does this rise have any implications for potential output?
  3. Does the rise in the number of those unemployed for over a year have implications for our potential output?
  4. Go back through the commentary: are there any notable gender differences in the figures? What factors might help to explain these?
  5. In 1984 part-time employment stood at 4.985 million while currently the figure is 7.671 million. Is it possible to explain this growth in part-time employment in the UK?