One in five UK adults are economically inactive

Economic inactivity in the UK has risen to 21.8% of the working-age population, according to new data.

It means that more than a fifth of adults were out of work and not actively seeking employment between November and January. This includes students, people who look after family or a home, people who are long-term sick or disabled, and those who retired early.

A deeper dive into the figures shows that the increase in economic inactivity was mainly driven by numbers of students and people who have retired, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The number of people inactive due to long-term sickness fell in recent months, but remains higher than estimates a year ago.

In the same period the employment rate declined slightly to 75.0%, while unemployment ticked up to 3.9%. The overall number of people in work is still rising, however.

The monthly data also showed that average pay is continuing to rise, albeit at a slower rate than in previous periods. Pay growth remains higher than the rate of inflation.

Annual growth in regular pay, which excludes bonuses, was 6.1% in November to January. Including bonuses, the annual increase in total pay was 5.6%.

In real terms, adjusted for inflation, regular pay rose on the year by 1.8% and total pay was up 1.4%.

Job vacancies fell for the 20th consecutive period to 908,000 in December to February, down 43,000 on the previous three months.

Liz McKeown, ONS director of economic statistics, said that the number of job vacancies has been falling for almost two years but the total remains more than 100,000 above the pre-pandemic level.