New analysis from the Office for National Statistics has shown the number of people leaving their main job in April-June 2011 was 674,000, a drop of 42 per cent on the 1998 peak of 1.17 million.

This decline suggests that the UK labour market is less dynamic now than in the past. Of those who left in April-June 2011, 57 per cent chose to leave voluntarily – for example by resigning – and 43 per cent were made to leave involuntarily, for example by being made redundant.

Looking at the percentage of workers who left their jobs in the April-June period, around 2.4 per cent of all workers in the workforce left their main job in 2011, down from 4.5 per cent in 1998. Over this period, the proportion of workers leaving their jobs voluntarily has generally declined (from 3.1 per cent in 1998 to 1.4 per cent in 2011), but those leaving involuntarily declined only slowly (from 1.4 per cent in 1998 to 0.9 per cent in 2008) then peaked at 1.4 per cent in 2009. This was in fact the same rate as for voluntary departures in that year, the only time in this period where involuntary departures equalled voluntary ones.

The recession had a greater impact on the rate of people leaving their job in the private than in the public sector. The percentage of private sector workers leaving their job voluntarily fell sharply (from 3.2 per cent in April-June 2004 to 1.7 per cent in 2009), while those leaving involuntarily rose during the recession (from 1.1 per cent in 2004 to 1.8 per cent in 2009).

In contrast, there was little change in the percentage of public sector workers leaving their main job during the recession, either voluntarily or involuntarily. In the time since the end of the recession, the percentage of public sector workers made to leave their job has doubled, from 0.5 per cent in April-June 2009 to 1.0 per cent in 2011, while the percentage of those in the public sector choosing to leave fell slightly, from 1.1 per cent to 1.0 per cent over the same period.

People in younger age groups were more likely than those in older age groups to leave their main job. In April-June 2011, 4.7 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 left their main job, compared with 2.8 per cent of those aged 25 to 34, 1.9 per cent of those aged 35 to 49, and 1.8 per cent of those aged 50 to 64.