Women’s Budget Group briefing: Gender analysis of the ONS Labour Market Statistics

Women’s Budget Group  has analysed the latest ONS data on the changes to the labour market for the latest three months to February 2021 from a gender perspective.

The analysis finds: 

  • The figures show signs of improvement in the labour market this month, with employment levels rising and a fall in unemployment for two consecutive months (Jan 21-Feb 21.) It is important to remember how much work the furlough scheme is doing in terms of keeping employment figures up.
  • There is still a big employment gap made up of an estimated 6.2m people who are not working because they are on furlough but remain employed. We know that more women have been placed on furlough than men, so the true impact of the pandemic may not yet be reflected on the headline employment figures.
  • Vacancies continue to rise in 2021, up 16% in March. However, this is still 22.7% fewer than the vacancies a year earlier, immediately prior to the start of the Covid-19 social distancing measures
  • According to real-time PAYE data published by HMRC, 813,000 fewer people were in payrolled employment in March 2021, when compared with March 2020. Moreover, there has been a decrease of 2.8% compared to February 2021
  • Of the 813,000 decrease in payrolled employees since March 2020, 43.7% (355,000) can be attributed to those working in the accommodation and food services industries, and 27.4% (223,000) to employees living in London.
  • Women’s employment rate has held steadier than men’s, reducing just 0.6 ppts compared to men’s rate reducing 2.3 ppts in the past year. This can be explained by the surge of employment in industries such as healthcare and public administration, where women make up the majority of the workforce. Health and social care saw an increase of 110,000 employees.
  • Economic inactivity for men is up at a record high of 1.6 ppts on the year at 17.5% which is the highest it has been since May-July 2011, while for women the rate is at a record low of 24.3%, down by 0.2 ppts on the year. Again, this contrast might be explained by a larger number of women entering the workforce through the health and social care industries during the pandemic.

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