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Britain Has A Bigger, But Sicker, Workforce Than Previously Thought | ONS

a guy being sick

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates of the size and shape of the UK labour market show that it has a bigger workforce, with employment up 170,000 compared to previous estimates, but also a sicker one, with the number not working because of long-term sickness reaching a new record high of 2.8 million, the Resolution Foundation said today

ONS’ reweighting of the labour force survey – its principal survey of the workforce – to reflect the UK population growing faster than previously thought, shows that the labour market is bigger but weaker than previous estimates.

The employment rate in Sep-Nov 2023 was down by 0.7 percentage points, unemployment up by 0.1 percentage points and economic inactivity up by 0.7 percentage points. The number of people economically inactive due to long-term sickness has been revised up from its previous record high of 2.6 million to 2.8 million.

The ONS has also revised the shape of the UK population, with a slightly larger share of younger (aged 16-17 and 18-24) workers (up 0.2 and 0.1 percentage points respectively), and a smaller share of workers aged 25-34 and 50-64 (down 0.3 and 0.2 percentage points).

The smaller share of ‘prime-age’ workers – the reduction in workers aged 25-34 and 50-64 has only partially been offset by a small increase, of 0.1 percentage points, in 35-49-year-olds – has driven the judgement that employment is lower than previously thought.

Hannah Slaughter, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“Britain has a bigger, but sicker, workforce than we previously thought. Of particular concern is the fact that a record 2.8 million people in the country are currently inactive due to ill health.”

“Tackling rising ill-health is a huge social and economic challenge that we’ll be facing throughout the 2020s, as will getting the UK employment back up to and beyond pre-pandemic levels.”

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