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Employment in the United Kingdom - Statistics & Facts

At the start of 2020, the employment rate of the United Kingdom reached it's highest ever level, with 76.6 percent of the working-age population in some form of paid work. This meant that in January 2020 there were approximately 31.68 million people working in the United Kingdom. In general, the UK labor market has been in good health ever since the unemployment rate peaked at 8.5 percent in late 2011, following the global financial crisis of 2008. Even as economic growth slowed down from 2015 onwards, and Brexit introduced a degree of economic uncertainty to the UK, the country's labor market continued to improve. While the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 reversed these positive trends, it remains to be seen just how severe the damage will be, with the most recent forecast from the UK government anticipating unemployment to reach 6.8 percent in 2021, and not fall below five percent until 2024.

Characteristics of UK workers

The vast majority of the UK's workforce are employed in the private sector, which employs almost 27.5 million people, compared with the public sector which has a workforce of approximately 5.5 million people. Within the UK private sector, the industry which employs the most people is wholesale and retail trade, at over 5 million people. The National Health Service (NHS) is the largest employer in the public sector at over 1.78 million, and also the UK's single biggest employer overall. Although working patterns have become a lot more flexible in recent years, most people in the UK are still working full-time rather than part-time. Another significant development in the labor force, is the increasing number of self-employed workers which reached over 5 million in January 2020. The share of people who work from home reached 14.2 percent in 2019, and is certain to increase further in the 2020s, even after the Coronavirus pandemic.

Hours and earnings

Full-time workers in the United Kingdom had an average annual salary of 31.46 thousand British pounds, with annual earnings for men being 33.9 thousand, and women just under 28 thousand. While the gender pay gap has been declining in recent years, there is evidently more work to be done to ensure men and women are afforded the same financial opportunities in the future. Other differences in pay exist between regions, with Londoners earning around 13.2 thousand pounds a year more than workers in North East England, while there are also significant differences in what people of different ethnicities earn an hour. Overall, the UK workforce collectively worked more than a billion hours a week in January 2020, before this figure fell sharply to just 841 million by May, the lowest since 1994. Due to the government's temporary furlough scheme, where employees have most of their wages paid for by the government, this dramatic fall in working hours has not yet translated to high unemployment. Even with an end to the Coronavirus pandemic in sight, it is likely that UK employers and employees face some tough months ahead.

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Employment in the UK

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