More than a fifth of adults not looking for work

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More than a fifth of adults in the UK were deemed not to be actively looking for work between November and January, official figures suggest.

The UK’s economic inactivity rate was 21.8% in the three-month period, higher than a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said.

It means 9.2 million people aged between 16 and 64 in the UK are not in work or looking for a job.

Concerns have been raised over worker shortages affecting the UK economy.

The number of people not employed or actively looking for work surged during the Covid pandemic, but started to fall as lockdowns ended and restrictions eased.

But economists have said the UK’s economic inactivity rate has proved more persistent, with the government’s official forecaster highlighting that more than 700,000 people were currently not in work or seeking employment compared to pre-pandemic levels.

About a third of the working-age inactive population cited long-term illness as the main reason for not being in the labour force, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

It has led to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt setting out a series of measures in his Budget last week aimed at encouraging people to find work, or increase hours.