Labour Market

Labour market variables broadly relate to employers’ and workers’ decisions about work and wages. This page explains the main variables – unemployment, wages and earnings, and productivity – and how they are related to one another. The commentary presents further details of these variables in the UK and provides some comparisons with other countries.


This page briefly explains the distinction between cyclical and structural unemployment, how unemployment is measured in the UK and the meaning of OECD’s measure termed Harmonised Unemployment. It presents data on the UK unemployment rate since 1971 and provides commentary on the behaviour of Harmonised Unemployment Rates in selected countries from 2000 to the latest period for which data are available.

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Productivity, or more accurately labour productivity, is a measure of how effective workers are at producing output. On this page we explain two common ways of measuring it and how it can be compared across countries. In commentary we look at movements in UK productivity since the 1960s and for selected countries since 1990 or 2000. We also provide evidence on the UK’s productivity levels compared with other major economies since 1990.

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Wages, Earnings and Labour Costs

This page explains the distinction between real and nominal wages and earnings; it illustrates how these labour costs and productivity interact to influence the prices businesses set and how this affects an economy’s competitiveness. The commentary section looks at the behaviour of average real earnings in the UK since the 1960s and the behaviour of labour costs in the UK and key Euro-zone members since 2000.

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