Rise in self-employment drives increase in overall employment figures

Rise in self-employment drives increase in overall employment figures
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Tue 16th May 2023

A year-on-year increase of more than 150,000 self-employed people was one of the drivers behind a rise in employment during the first quarter of this year.

Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed the UK employment rate was estimated at 75.9% in January to March 2023, 0.2% higher than October to December 2022.

ONS said the rise was driven by part-time employees and self-employed workers, with self-employment increasing by 154,000 people year-on-year. The figure included an additional 93,000 self-employed women.

Charlotte Thomason, head of policy at Enterprise Nation, said:

"It's wonderful to see the increase in self-employment, especially with more women running their own business. 

"The next step is to ensure these business owners are adequately supported with policies implemented for their benefit. Simplified tax, a move to digital reporting, education on saving for retirement and tackling late payment are just a few of the ways that the government can ensure the continued success of the newly self-employed."

Steve Sully from recruitment agency Robert Half added:

"While there may be a fall noted in jobs in the UK, the uptick in the number of people in self-employment is indicative of a continued growth in demand for highly skilled professionals in particular.

"We're seeing a shift in the market with employers seemingly relying on contract resources both out of necessity as skills shortages continue, and also as a result of general nervousness to commit to permanent headcount costs as the economic uncertainty continues."

Increase in unemployment

The ONS report also showed a rise in UK unemployment, increasing to 3.9% between January and March, up from 3.8% in the previous quarter.

The number of Britons off work due to long-term sickness has reached a record high. Driven by an increase in mental health issues among young people and incidents of back and neck pain, which could be due to a rise in home working, 2.5m people are now not working due to health problems, the data found.

Over a million job vacancies

Although they fell by 55,000 in the 10th consecutive quarterly fall, there was still 1,083,000 job vacancies in February to April 2023.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said:

"It's encouraging that the unemployment rate remains historically low but difficulty in finding staff and rising prices are a worry for many families and businesses.

"That's why we must stick to our plan to halve inflation and help families with the cost of living, while delivering our childcare reforms and supporting older people and disabled people who want to work."

Relevant self-employment resources

The ultimate guide to becoming a freelance adviser

Webinar: How to start a freelance business

Tips for freelancers: How to manage clients and work productively

How to create the perfect home office

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance journalist and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's news reporter and Bristol Local Leader. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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