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.
- 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.
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.
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