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The Mayor of London The London Assembly

Labour market update for London – September 2019

Labour markets remain tight in London and the UK


The ONS today released labour market data for the three months to July 2019. London’s labour market was largely stable with a small fall in the employment rate while the unemployment rate remained unchanged. The UK maintained its highest employment rate on record and unemployment rate stayed at its lowest level since 1974. Meanwhile, a tight labour market continued to feed into wage growth at the national level.

  • In the three months to July 2019 there were 4.6 million Londoners in work. This was down by 30,000 on the previous year. At the same time, there were 225,000 unemployed residents and just over 1.3 million economically inactive working age residents.
  • London’s 16-64 employment rate was 74.3%, down 0.6 percentage points on the quarter and 0.3 percentage points on the year. For the UK as a whole the employment rate rose by 0.6 percentage points on the year, returning to its joint record high of 76.1%.
  • London’s unemployment rate (the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labour force) stood at 4.6%, which was unchanged on the previous year. The UK unemployment rate was 3.8%, down 0.2 percentage points on the year.
  • Data for Great Britain shows that estimated average annual growth in weekly earnings for employees increased to 4.0% for total pay (including bonuses) and fell to 3.8% (from 3.9%) for regular pay. After adjusting for inflation this is an increase of 2.1% for total pay and 1.9% for regular pay. Despite recent growth, the level of average weekly earnings remains lower than before the 2008/09 recession.
  • Provisional data on workforce jobs shows that in the first quarter of 2019 there were 6.1 million jobs in London. This marks an increase of 100,000 jobs or 1.7% on the previous year; this was in line with the growth rate for the UK of over the same period (1.8%) and the average rate in London over the past two decades (1.8%).
  • Among London’s sectors, “Professional, scientific & technical activities” saw the highest annual growth in jobs (+45,000), followed by “Transport and storage” and “Accommodation and food service activities” ( +15,000 for both). In contrast , “Wholesale & retail” workforce jobs fell on the previous year (-27,000), along with “Arts, Entertainment & Recreation” (-12,000) and Manufacturing (-10,000).
  • The “Professional, scientific & technical activities” displayed a swing from a decline in jobs in the year to 2018 Q2 to a large increase in the year to 2019 Q2. And this is similar to what has happened in the “Transport and storage” sector. In contrast there was an opposite swing in “Arts, entertainment and recreation”.
  • Please see the charts and tables on the following pages for more detail on headline labour market data.


Note on interpreting labour market data: many of the statistics presented here (for example, the employment rate and unemployment rate) are estimates based on a survey, and as such have a margin of error- known as sampling variability. For example, a sampling variability of 0.1 and an estimated value of 2% would mean that if the survey was carried out 100 times, then in 95 of these the value would be between 1.9% and 2.1%. Changes in the headline indicators for London, and the gap between London and the UK are typically within the survey’s margin of error, meaning they are not statistically significant and may not reflect real changes / differences.

Headline labour market data – employment rate, unemployment rate, and economic inactivity rate

Note: charts show seasonally adjusted data.

London’s employment rate (i.e. the proportion of London’s residents aged 16-64 population in employment) in the three months to June 2019 was 74.3%, down 0.6 percentage points on the quarter and up 0.3 percentage points on the year. The UK’s employment rate was 1.8 percentage points higher than London’s at 76.1%, unchanged on the quarter and up 0.6 percentage points on the year.

In the three months to July 2019 London’s ILO unemployment rate was 4.6%, up 0.4 percentage points on the quarter and unchanged on the previous year. The UK’s unemployment rate stood at 3.8%, same as the previous quarter and down 0.2 percentage points on the year.

In the three months to July 2019 the rate of economic inactivity in London (the proportion of 16 to 64 year olds not in work and not looking for or not able to work) was 22.1%, up 0.3 percentage points on the quarter and up 0.4 percentage points on the year. The UK’s rate of economic inactivity stood at 20.8%, unchanged on the quarter and down 0.5 percentage points on the year.

Headline labour market data for London and the UK

*All figures are seasonally adjusted. Rates are based on working age (16 – 64 male and female), with the exception of the unemployment rate which is age 16+. We are no longer including a table with the claimant count (the number of people claiming unemployment benefits). The roll out of Universal Credit has caused problems with this statistic. In September 2017 we provided a briefing.  

Jobs charts

 Year-on-year jobs growth (%), London and the UK, 1997 to 2019 Q2

Source: ONS workforce jobs

Jobs growth in London by sector, last 12 months (2018-19 Q2) and previous (2017-18 Q2)

Source: ONS workforce jobs