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Over One-Fifth of UK Adults Not Actively Seeking Employment, Official Data Shows

Official figures released indicate that more than a fifth of adults in the UK are not actively seeking work, raising concerns over workforce shortages affecting the nation’s economy.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s economic inactivity rate stood at 21.8% between November and January, slightly higher than the previous year. This translates to approximately 9.2 million individuals aged 16 to 64 who are neither employed nor seeking employment, a figure exceeding pre-pandemic levels by over 700,000.

The persistently high level of economic inactivity has prompted discussions about its impact on the UK economy, particularly as the nation navigates through a period of economic recovery. Despite recent reports of economic contraction, unemployment rates have remained steady, while wage growth has slowed albeit remaining above the rate of inflation.

The ONS attributes a significant portion of economic inactivity to long-term illness, accounting for about a third of the working-age population not participating in the labor force. Additionally, various other factors, including caregiving responsibilities, disability, and early retirement, contribute to the economic inactivity rate, with women disproportionately represented compared to men.

The UK government has introduced measures aimed at incentivizing employment, such as reducing National Insurance Contributions and expanding childcare services. However, business groups argue that more comprehensive strategies are needed to address workforce shortages and stimulate long-term economic growth.

The data also reveals challenges in accurately assessing the labor market, with the ONS highlighting potential limitations in survey data reliability. These uncertainties present additional complexities for policymakers and institutions relying on job market data to inform economic decisions, including the Bank of England.

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