Job vacancies in UK at all-time high

Job vacancies in the UK have hit record levels as the nation's economy rebounds from the crippling effects of lockdowns prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the quarter to the end of July, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded an average of 953,000 job openings while, last month, the data showed the total had topped the one million mark for the first time.The ONS also said that the number of employees on payrolls rose by 182,000 last month, though the figure remained about 200,000 below pre-pandemic levels, while the unemployment rate in the three months to June fell slightly to 4.7 per cent.

Economic data "promising"

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures show that our plan for jobs is working – saving people’s jobs and getting people back into work."I know there could still be bumps in the road but the data is promising – there are now more employees on payrolls than at any point since March 2020, and the number of people on furlough is the lowest since the scheme launched.”The data published on Tuesday also showed that annual pay growth had hit an average of 7.4 per cent, although the ONS cautioned that not too much should be read into the rapid surge.
Jonathan Athow, deputy chief statistician at the ONS, told the BBC that while the rise in average pay was much higher than in recent years, it was based on a comparison to last summer when millions of people were on furlough and were not receiving a full wage."This time last year we had millions of people on furlough many getting 80 per cent of their wages, other people having their hours cut, and that pushed wages down," he said."So when we look at wages this year, when people have come back from furlough, it's really been boosted by the fact that last year wages were quite low. Some of this group was just wages returning to the level before the pandemic."

ONS: UK productivity has risen to pre-pandemic levels

ONS figures also showed that productivity in the UK rose above pre-pandemic levels in the three months to the end of June, the period in which the government eased coronavirus restrictions. Over the quarter, output per hour worked was 0.6 per cent above the 2019 average.Tony Russell, chief growth officer at the work management automation firm Proteus, commented: "It’s clear that early fears of the pandemic crippling the UK’s productivity were unfounded; in fact, the silver lining of the crisis might be that it has gone some way to solving the productivity puzzle."Most industries have increased output per hour when compared to pre-pandemic levels. The second quarter did reveal a dip in productivity, likely due to furloughed workers returning to work as they are disproportionately employed in less productive industries."But the real leadership challenge for businesses will be seen in the third quarter, as the un-lockdown brings the issue of hybrid working to the fore. Management has changed forever, and the traditional business process is no longer fit for purpose."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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