ONS Labour Market Statistics (January 2021)

Date Posted: Friday 29th January 2021

We’re releasing our analysis of ONS latest labour market figures with an important word of caution: Two detailed reviews were released in January 2021 highlighting the potential unreliability of ONS official unemployment figures during the pandemic

The Alliance for Full Employment claims that there are 350,000 job losses not picked up by the ONS labour market statistics relying on the Labour Force Survey. Based on the fewer 785,000 employees on payroll between March-November 2020 (PAYE data), they estimate unemployment rate in September 2020 to have been 7.2%, rather than the headline 4.9%. This would be in line with OBR’s forecast of a peak in unemployment of 7.5% in mid-2021.

Jonathan Portes and Michael O’Connor, two migration experts, estimate that up to 1.3 million people have left the UK (700,000 in London) since March 2020, which would go some way to explain why job losses are not being captured by headline unemployment figures.

We do not know if the issues with the employment headlines are skewing the employment numbers for women and men differently. We do find it counterintuitive that, as tens of thousands of redundancies are announced in sectors with a majority female workforce, economic inactivity figures for women are at a record low (0.5% down compared to the end of 2019). Given this, and the fact that women are bearing the brunt of the extra care and home-schooling during the lockdowns, it seems puzzling that women’s employment figures are holding up better than men’s.

Read our short note on what we found for the Labour Market data for January 2021.