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Labour market prospects are still “deteriorating” across the country, TUC warns
  • Government claims that economic outlook is improving are “laughable” says union body 

  • UK suffered the worst rise in unemployment in the first quarter of 2024 of any OECD country 

  • TUC says lack of a proper long-term economic plan is “costing Britain dear” 

The unemployment rate rose and job vacancies fell across the country in the first quarter of 2024, according to new TUC analysis published today (Monday). 

The analysis of official statistics shows that unemployment levels increased by 178,000 across England between October-December 2023 and January-March 2024 (the latest period for which data is available). 

The North West (+47,000 and a 1.2 percentage point (ppt) increase) saw the biggest increase in unemployment, followed by the West Midlands (+38,000 and +1.2 ppt) and London (+37,000 and +0.8ppt). 

The TUC says the UK as a whole has suffered the biggest rise in unemployment of any OECD country since the turn of the year. 

The UK unemployment rate overall was up 0.5 percentage points, with only Costa Rica seeing the same trend. 

The unemployment rate for all OECD countries – and likewise for EU countries – was unchanged over the same period.  

Slump in vacancies 

The TUC says the rise in unemployment in 2024 has coincided with a slump in job vacancies. 

ONS figures for online job adverts show falls in every single English region in the first quarter of this year.  

The South West (-11.7% decline) has seen the biggest fall in vacancies followed by London (-11.1%), the West Midlands (-11%) and South East (-11%).  

Deteriorating labour market 

The union body says the Prime Minister’s claims that the economy has now turned a corner are “laughable”. 

The TUC says that in addition to rising unemployment and falling vacancy rates, the economy is still failing working people on a number of key measures: 

  • 2010 to 2024 has seen the worst government performance on growth since modern records began after the Second World War.  

  • Real wages are still worth less than in 2008. 

  • Millions are in insecure work. 

  • Long-term sickness is at record levels. 

Need for new economic plan 

The TUC says that after 14 years of Conservative mismanagement the UK urgently needs a new economic plan. 

The union body highlighted the importance of the New Deal for Working People and the Green Prosperity Plan for boosting growth and productivity and making work pay. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  

“Rishi Sunak’s economic boasts are frankly laughable. 

“It shows just how out of touch he and his government are – and this complacency is costing Britain dear. 

“In every single English region people’s job prospects have been deteriorating – with the unemployment rate rising and vacancies falling. 

“The Conservatives are failing working people. Joblessness and economic inactivity are up. Over four million people are trapped in insecure work. And real wages are still worth less than in 2008. 

“Our country is crying out for change. We need a government that will make work pay and deliver better jobs, growth and living standards. 

“The New Deal for Working People and Green Prosperity Plan are vital for setting Britain on a new course.” 

Editors note

- Figures are from:  

Increase in unemployment/fall in vacancies: January-March 2024 compared to October-December 2023 


Increase in unemployment  (numbers) 

Increase in unemployment rate (ppts) 

Fall in vacancies (%) 





North East 



North West 




Yorkshire + Humber 




East Midlands 




West Midlands 




East of England 








South East 




South West 




Source: TUC analysis of ONS figures 

- Regional unemployment figures are from the ONS Labour Market statistics. The latest ONS online job advert estimates were published on 31 May 2024: The figures compare average weekly outcomes for English regions over January to March 2024 with October to December 2023. The comparison of OECD countries is from the OECD data explorer, using quarterly figures from the monthly employment rate tables:[ds]=dsDisseminateFinalDMZ&df[id]=DSD_LFS%40DF_IALFS_UNE_M&df[ag]=OECD.SDD.TPS&df[vs]=1.0&lo=13&lom=LASTNPERIODS&dq=..._Z.Y._T.Y_GE15..M&to[TIME_PERIOD]=false 
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 

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