Employment: what you need to know

24 April 2015

The latest figures on people in work are out today, with new data up to February 2015. Here's what we've learned so far.

  • There are now over 31 million people in work. That's an employment rate of 73.4% of people aged 16-64: the highest employment rate since comparable records began in 1971.
  • And 1.8 million people are unemployed, that's an unemployment rate of 5.6%. The lowest unemployment rate on record is 3.4%, which was reached towards the end of 1973.
  • The remaining 9 million people are 'economically inactive', that is, not working and not looking to start work. This includes, for example, some students, those unemployed because they are looking after the family or home, retirees, and those unable to work because of illness or disability.

Employment since 2010

Since the three months prior to the last election, two million more people are in work. This splits up into:

  • 0.6 million self-employed, 1.4 million employees
  • 0.5 million part-time, 1.5 million full time people in work
  • 400,000 fewer public sector employees, and 2.3 million more private sector employees. The most recent figures only go up to December 2014 so aren't as up to date.
  • It's not possible to say how much of the increase came from people on zero-hours contracts.

Update: April 19, 2015 — We initially stated that the lowest unemployment rate on record was 4.7% in 2004 and 2005, but it was pointed out that the unemployment rate reached a lower level during the 1970s.

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