Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

ONS Labour Market Statistics - Reaction from the industry

Comment from CIPD, Totaljobs, DWF, Manpower Group,, REC, ID-Pal, XpertHR, Glassdoor, Juice Recruitment

Jonathan Boys, Labour Market Economist for the CIPD:  

“While there are fewer vacancies than last quarter, they still remain high by historical standards. Demand for staff is high, but there is a shortage of available people as unemployment remains low and the workforce is smaller than it was pre-pandemic. For those still in work however, their bargaining power may be increasing.

“Annual pay growth of 6.4% would usually be reported as phenomenal, but with prices rising by 10.7%, this still represents a real-terms pay cut, plunging the cost-of-living crisis to new depths. A combination of worker power and falling real wages is driving the current spate of industrial action, as we saw 467,000 days lost to strikes in November. 

“Labour supply shortages are worrying policymakers and businesses. Many people have dropped out of work entirely and employers need to do more to entice them back. This means creating jobs that work for people. A focus on job quality, including flexible working in all it’s guises, will facilitate the inclusion of people who may have left employment because they could not make it work for them.”  

Steve Warnham, Senior Researcher at Totaljobs:

“While the labour market is starting to cool, there are no signs that it’s about to go completely off the boil. This recession will be unlike its predecessors, and the market won’t drop in the same way that it did in 2008. Businesses need their people more than ever.”

“Our own Hiring Trends Index data points towards an increase in recruitment and demand for specialist roles – highlighting that any slowdown will impact each industry and specialism in a different manner – not spreading to the entire labour market. We’ve seen an increase in spending to hire for these specialist roles, indicating that competition for this talent will heat up in the year ahead.”

“Furthermore, our early 2023 data revealed that the typical jobs rush experienced in January has dipped compared to recent years – with one in three jobseekers concerned about job security among the current economic climate. The cost-of-living crisis is the main driver behind candidate behaviour, with over half of those looking for a new job putting a higher salary as a top priority.”  

Joanne Frew, Global Head of Employment and Pensions at DWF:

The latest employment ONS figures for the period between September and November 2022 show a steady labour market despite ongoing economic pressures.  The highlights for the period show a UK employment rate of 75.6%, largely unchanged over the quarter.  The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.7%, 0.2% higher than the previous quarter. The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.5%, a 0.1% decrease from the previous three month period. 

Reports are showing that pay is rising at a significant pace but that this is still not enough to counteract the cost of living crisis.  The ONS figures show that growth in average total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay (excluding bonuses) among employees was 6.4% for September to November 2022, the strongest growth rate seen outside the Covid pandemic period.  However, soaring prices mean that employees are not feeling the benefit of pay increases.  The Bank of England has previously warned that increased wages can lead to inflation becoming embedded.  Employers are in the precarious position of juggling demands for increased pay, a competitive labour market and rising business costs.

The UK economy has certainly faced a challenging period, however recent reports are showing some sign of recovery.  In November 2022 the UK economy unexpectedly grew by 0.1%, reportedly boosted by increased revenue from the World Cup.  Although the growth offers some comfort the labour market is likely to face a continued turbulent period over the next few months.  

Gareth Vale, Operations Director, ManpowerGroup:

“Today’s ONS labour market statistics show that the jobs market remains remarkably robust but also reinforces the continued stresses that employers face in finding the talent they need. There is very little sign of the tight UK labour market easing significantly any time soon.

“It is very welcome to see that a further 28,000 people were added to payrolls taking the growth in employment to 880,000 since the start of the pandemic. The slight uptick in the unemployment rate is also no surprise. And the decline in the number of economically inactive – and this being particularly amongst those aged under 24 and those aged over 50 is very welcome – but we need to see this trend continue.

“The pressing challenge is pay. Whilst growth is at a 20-year high, this still represents a real-terms cut as prices continue to outpace earnings creating real pressures for many households. All eyes will be on tomorrow's inflation figures and hoping for some good news here, with hopes that inflation eases later this year.

“The fight for talent continues for employers – and whilst the number of vacancies may have fallen slightly we know that many employers have to keep hiring just to stand still. This is across every sector and every region. The retention of skilled workers will be the key priority in the months ahead as people are naturally enticed to look around given the high level of vacancies while rising costs are adding extra pressures on many households.   

“As such we’re seeing organisations of all sizes looking into more ways they can retain their workers, not only through notice periods and salaries but also in how they offer better flexible working options.  This includes areas such as career progression support, as well as mental wellbeing and physical health.”

James Reed CBE, Chairman of

"Looking at our data from the first two weeks of 2023, we see that total job postings on the site are down 25 per cent in comparison to the same period last year. At the same time, however, applications from candidates are on the rise — increasing by 20 per cent YoY.

"While the hiring activity of many businesses continues to dip below the record number of vacancies seen during the 2022 'jobs boom', the career opportunities currently available continue to turn the heads of many candidates. In fact, in sectors such as IT & Telecoms, Sales and Engineering we saw a growth in jobs postings - rising by 20 per cent, 46 per cent and 20 per cent MoM respectively.

“The biggest sector moves YOY are in social care, health & medicine, and IT & Telecoms – which have seen job postings decrease by 55%, 52% and 27% respectively. With the NHS under increasing pressure, we hope to see additional investment channelled into health & medicine over the coming months to protect jobs and encourage more talent into the sector.

"Despite strong economic headwinds, the labour market remains stubbornly buoyant with no signs of the mass redundancies and layoffs typically associated with past recessions. In fact, in this 'unconventional recession', it is more likely we will see 'labour hoarding' from businesses keen to hold onto the talent needed to support growth when the economy begins to recover.

"Likely driven by the cost-of-living crisis, many people have opted to start their job hunting early in January in order to secure a pay bump and achieve greater financial security for the challenging year ahead. Many likely sense that a window of opportunity exists and while it may be wide open at the moment, it could begin to slowly close over the course of 2023."

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC):

“Today’s official labour market data confirms the trends that business surveys have been suggesting for some time. Demand for workers is still higher than pre-pandemic, which combines with candidate shortages to make hiring workers a challenge. Slower economic performance and high inflation is starting to slow this trend, but it has not reversed. High inflation and a tight labour market have also fed into higher pay for existing and new staff, a challenge to companies who are facing rising costs across the board. At an unpredictable time, it is also no surprise to see firms dipping into the UK’s world-leading temporary work market for short-term access to key skills.

“For businesses, this report confirms the need to keep investing in getting hiring right because even in a slower economy we are likely to still have a tight labour market. Working with a professional recruitment partner Is an essential part of that. For governments, supporting people into work from inactivity must be a priority – but that must be tied to a wider plan for long-term growth and workforce sustainability.”

Simon Montgomery Chief Operations Officer, ID-Pal:

“It’s positive to see that the unemployment rate remained unchanged in the three months to November 2022. However, despite many business owner's best efforts and given the inevitable increased cost of doing business, many may have few options in coming months but to reduce their workforce.

“The pandemic saw organisations hire across key areas to meet demand. Now as the situation returns to a type of normal, we’re seeing the impact of these decisions.

“Consider the wider implications that not hiring or announcing redundancies can have on a business, including a loss of culture, remaining employee disengagement, and the costly process of rehiring once the tide changes.

“Rather consider how technology reduces existing workloads and gives your workforce more time to focus on activity that not only grows the business but means they can develop their role into something new. If they can prove they can deliver value in other ways when their time is optimised,  your business could reap the rewards.”

Sheila Attwood, Senior Content Manager, Data and HR Insights, XpertHR:

“January is the second most common month for employer pay rises (after April), and XpertHR has seen that the first deals being recorded this year show that the median pay award is likely to increase to 6%, from the 5% recorded in the three months to the end of December 2022. The ONS data shows a continuing strong labour market and against this our data also suggests that the bargaining pace may be quickening, as we approach April.

“Money remains front of mind for all, with the UK just holding off a recession for now, and the cost-of-living crisis continuing. It’ll be a balancing act for employers between pay affordability and pay expectations. Continued industrial action and the labour market only beginning its slow down pushes the emphasis on employers to ensure they pursue these conversations carefully as well as consider other ways to support employees during this time while still remaining in the black.”

Lauren Thomas, Economist, Glassdoor:

“This report has set the tone for the turbulent economic year ahead: still high economic inactivity and low but rising redundancies are two of the many mixed signals the labour market is giving off. The large numbers of workers who left the job market since Covid show few signs of returning, with the possible exception of early retirees aged 50-64. This group could re-enter the labour market as they face a once-in-a-generation cost of living crisis without the comfort of an inflation-adjusted state pension. Recent mass layoffs in tech sparked concern but it’s unclear how much they’ll impact the UK-specific redundancy rate given their global scope. Regardless, Glassdoor data shows tech employees are increasingly nervous about the future. Negative business outlook for their employers is 76% higher than at the start of the pandemic.”

Emma Summers, Founder, Juice Recruitment:

“The sheer level of economic and political uncertainty is definitely making employers more cautious about hiring at present, which will explain the fall in job vacancies. Shoot from the hip has been replaced by sit-tight. This is in stark contrast to the recruitment hiring trends we saw earlier this year. The permanent jobs market has slowed for the first time in two years but the temporary market remains strong, suggesting that confidence in UK Plc is waning.”