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Employment rate in the UK 1971-2020

In the three months to December 2020, the employment rate in the United Kingdom was 75 percent, compared with 76.3 percent for the same period in 2019. After almost dropping below 70 percent in 2011, the employment rate in the United Kingdom started to climb at a relatively fast pace, reaching 76.6 per cent in January 2020. After reaching that particular peak however, the employment rate has declined, and fell to 75.2 percent in the most recent months, following the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic, and societal lockdowns.

Record employment levels prior to pandemic

The high employment rate prior to the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in record levels of employed people in the United Kingdom, with more than 31.68 million people employed in February 2020. Since this peak, however the employment figures have experienced a net decrease of around 500 thousand workers, with the economic impact of Coronavirus highly likely to wreak further havoc with the UK labor market, especially after the job retention scheme is brought to a conclusion in April 2021.

Government safety net keeping jobs on furlough

While there are clear signs of trouble in the UK labor market, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic would certainly be a lot more severe had it not being for economic intervention by the UK government. As of December 31, 2020, over 3.82 million jobs were still on furlough, which although significant, was still far below the 8.8 million jobs that were on furlough in early May 2020. Jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors were naturally some of the most vulnerable to lockdowns, and these sectors had the most jobs furloughed at the height of the Spring lockdown at 1.84 million, and 1.63 million respectively.

Employment rate in the United Kingdom from March 1971 to December 2020

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Release date

February 2021


United Kingdom

Survey time period

March 1971 to December 2020

Age group


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Statistics on "Employment in the UK"

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