In the opening weeks of 2024, Statista‘s comprehensive data shed light on the employment dynamics that defined the UK’s labour market throughout 2023.

At the outset of 2023, the United Kingdom celebrated robust employment figures, reaching one of its historically highest levels. A notable 75.7% of the working-age population was actively contributing to the workforce, totaling approximately 32.8 million people. Despite economic uncertainties posed by factors such as Brexit, the UK’s labour market has showcased resilience, maintaining an upward trajectory since the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 briefly halted the positive trends. However, the latest insights, revealed in early 2024, indicate a remarkable recovery. Forecasts from the UK government project a sustained low unemployment rate, ranging from 4% to 4.4%, providing optimism for the country’s employment landscape until at least 2027.

Exploring Characteristics of the UK Workforce

Dominating the workforce, the private sector engages around 27 million individuals, surpassing the public sector, which employs approximately 5.8 million workers. The wholesale and retail trade industry emerges as the leading private sector employer, with nearly five million people. Noteworthy is the National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s largest single employer, boasting over 1.9 million employees.

Although full-time employment remains prevalent, shifts are observed, with the number of self-employed workers experiencing a dip from over five million in January 2020 to around 4.2 million by the Summer of 2021. Remote work gains prominence, constituting 17.4% of the workforce in 2020 and anticipated to further increase in the coming years.

Delving into Hours and Earnings

In terms of earnings, full-time workers in the UK command an average annual salary of £33,000. Gender pay gap improvements are evident, yet work remains to ensure equal financial opportunities. Regional variations persist, with Londoners earning approximately £12,345 more annually than their counterparts in North East England. Ethnicity-based disparities in hourly earnings underscore existing challenges.

A testament to the collective effort of the UK workforce is the statistic that, in January 2023, they collectively worked more than a billion hours a week. This marks a significant recovery from the lowest point in June 2020, which saw just 841 million cumulative hours worked, directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.