Employment up but what kind of jobs are responsible?

31 March 2015

As the Conservatives said yesterday, 1.9 million more people were in work at the latest count than in the three months prior to the election. This isn't the most helpful measure since there are also increasing numbers of people in the UK. But the employment rate (for people aged 16-64) is also at a record high of just above 73%.

So what types of work are the people behind the rise doing? The 1.9 million increase can be broken down a number of ways:

  • There were 1.3 million more employees and 600,000 more people who were self-employed.
  • There were 1.4 million more full-time workers and 500,000 more part-time workers.
  • There were 400,000 fewer public sector employees, and 2.3 million more private sector employees.

Why we don't know how many were on zero-hour contracts

It's difficult to say what proportion of the increase was made up by zero hour contracts. The equivalent figures on zero-hour contracts aren't comparable over time because they're based on surveys of employees, more of whom may be becoming more aware of being on a zero-hour contract than they were in the past (for example due to increased discussion in the media).

So a rise in the number of people saying they're on a zero-hour contract may not mean any more people are actually on them.

The latest estimate of the number of people whose main employment is a zero-hour contract is 697,000. That represents 1 in 43 people in employment (2.3%). We have more detail on zero-hour contracts in our briefing.

A note on our calculations

In all cases we're comparing the latest available figures (for the three months from November 2014 to January 2015) to the three month period before the last election (February-April 2010). They're from the Office for National Statistics' Labour Market Statistics release and their zero-hour contracts release.

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