The job market in the UK is “showing signs of recovery”, official figures suggest, with the unemployment rate falling and vacancies rising
Unemployment in the UK stood at 4.7% in the three months leading up to April, down from 4.8% in the previous three months, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
The number of the country’s job market vacancies in March to May was 758,000 – just 27,000 below the pre-pandemic levels.
However, unemployment among young people and those working within hospitality in the nation remains high.
ONS head of economic statistics, Sam Beckett, said: “The number of employees on payroll grew strongly in May, up by almost 200,000, although it is still over half a million down since the pandemic struck.
This comes after most lockdown rules will remain in place in England for four weeks after the planned 21 June easing, Boris Johnson has confirmed. Senior ministers have signed off on a decision to delay the lifting of all legal restrictions had been put upon social contact as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Job vacancies continued to recover in the spring, and our early estimates suggest that by May the total had surpassed its pre-pandemic level, with strong growth in sectors such as hospitality.
“Meanwhile the redundancy rate remains subdued, while the number of employees on furlough has continued to decline.”
Unemployment had risen sharply last year as the UK went through repeated lockdowns in succession, but it has gradually fallen back down this year.
There are now signs that businesses are expanding again, with the number of job vacancies in the country within most industries above pre-pandemic levels back in May, according to the ONS.
Similarly, the redundancy rate is back to the levels that were seen before the spread of COVID-19.
However, the number of workers that are on company payrolls in the accommodation and the food services sector, under the age of 25, or people living within London remains “well below” the levels pre-pandemic, the ONS has said.
The chief UK economist at Capital Economics, Paul Dales, told the BBC’s Today programme that the figures had shown that the labour market was “starting to turn in a good way after quite a painful year last year”.
“It is pretty much all down to the furlough scheme,” he said.
“That has been a huge success and quite frankly one of the best government policies I think that the modern economy has ever seen.
This comes after, it is “possible” that adding India to the UK’s foreign travel red list earlier might have prevented what is the widely anticipated delay to the easing of England’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that is set to be announced later, a government minister has said.
Without that I do think we would have had unemployment rates of 8-9%, similar to the peaks we saw during the global financial crisis.”
Mr Dales noted that there were still 3.4 million people in the nation on furlough but said that the “way the wind is blowing” meant that many would end up returning to their jobs. If they did not, he said that it “wouldn’t be too long until they found another one”.
There are fears that the four-week delay to fully easing England’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions will harm some sectors, with the government saying that it will not extend the job retention scheme or other financial aid. Hospitality, wedding and night-time entertainment companies have all reacted with dismay to the news.