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UK jobs market: vacancies soar to pre-pandemic levels

ended 15. July 2021

Given the events of the past 18 months, Wednesday's UK jobs data, published by the Office for National Statistics, was surprisingly upbeat.

Clearly, the wheels could come flying off the economy spectacularly when the furlough scheme ends but for now the jobs market is in an OK place.

Key stats

  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.8%, 0.9 percentage points higher than before the pandemic, but 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.
  • The number of job vacancies in April to June 2021 was 9.9% (77,500) above its pre-pandemic level in January to March 2020 the first time it has surpassed this level in 15 months.
  • From April to June 2021 there were an estimated 862,000 job vacancies, with growth of 38.8% (241,200) compared with last quarter; all but one industry saw increases in their number of vacancies; the largest percentage increase was seen in arts, entertainment and recreation.
  • The number of payroll employees showed another monthly increase, up 356,000 in June 2021 to 28.9 million. However, it remains 206,000 below pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels. For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, some regions are now above pre-pandemic (February 2020) levels. These include North East, North West, East Midlands and Northern Ireland.

15 Everests

The numbers paint a pretty picture, but it's fair to say that things could turn ugly pretty quickly. After all, we have a debt mountain the size of 15 Everests to pay off in the form of increased taxes, and we all know that a hell of a lot of companies will go pop the moment the furlough scheme ends.

Oh and then you have the fact that inflation is rising, which could mean interest rate rises. And we all know what happens if rates go up. “It's a huge sh!t sandwich and we've all gotta take a bite”, to quote Full Metal Jacket.

Our money says this data is a serious false positive.

Below are views from the Newspage community.

3 responses from the Newspage community

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Star Quote

"The jobs market has been improving steadily in recent months, with companies increasingly confident about hiring and more vacancies appearing by the day. "What's interesting is that 70% of our current jobseekers are in work and are voting for flexibility with their feet. "The remaining 30% are predominantly women who need to reskill - ideally with support from the Government. We've also noticed companies are much more diversity and inclusion-minded. "The end of the furlough scheme and a potential new lockdown come winter pose the biggest threat to unemployment levels. "Hospitality is understandably one of the weakest sectors of the jobs market, as it is highly sensitive to future lockdowns and a tightening of restrictions. By contrast, demand for homeworking in call centres is massively up. We are also seeing an increase in lower skilled applicants aged 45+."

"We've found the candidate side of the market is as quiet as we have known, with very few people actively looking to make a move at present. The pandemic has created a safety first mindset, with people choosing to stick rather than twist. "In certain sectors of the market, such as insurance, there are a phenomenal amount of vacancies, which has pushed salaries up as firms compete to nab what little talent there is available. "Furlough hasn't had much impact on our particular area of the jobs market, as the info we have suggests that there really are not many insurance staff on furlough now. Certainly an interesting time ahead in the market."

Gary Parsons
CEO at Talk Staff
"The jobs market is exceptionally buoyant at present, and positively overflowing with opportunity for candidates. Employers are currently fighting harder than ever for the right talent. We already have plans to double our own headcount in the next 9-12 months, having recently reopened our offices in Nottingham. "Many employers with staff still on furlough have resigned themselves to the fact that it's unlikely they'll be returning, sadly resulting in business closures and redundancies. Feedback is mixed though and flexible furlough remains popular during these still uncertain times, with infections rapidly on the rise and income once again disrupted. "While our payroll outsourcing team is seeing record levels of starters and leavers across most of its clients, they are also scrambling to deal with customer demand and changes in isolation rules are having detrimental effects on their businesses, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors."