In 2019, the employment rate among 25- to 64-year-olds in the UK reached 80 per cent – the highest on record, and considerably higher than the 76 per cent rate recorded shortly before the Great Recession. In this paper, we investigate the growth in employment between the eve of the Great Recession and the eve of COVID-19 across several dimensions. We analyse which sectors, demographic groups and regions accounted for the rise. We also investigate how job ‘quality’ – in both financial and non-financial terms – has changed. We find that almost all demographic groups and regions saw a rise in employment, especially those with low pre-existing employment rates and those near the bottom of the income distribution. Hourly pay growth was very weak over the period, with the median actually slightly falling. Other indicators of job quality show a more mixed picture: employees seem to have greater appreciation of their work and firm, but perceive less security and flexibility in their job.
This is an Early View version of this article before its inclusion in a future issue of Fiscal Studies.