Pandemic toll on jobs rises, but so do vacancies

In common with every other Western economy, unemployment in the UK continues to climb inexorably on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to official data published on Tuesday.

Someone searches for a job in the newspapers while drinking coffee
The unemployment rate hit its highest level in more than three years in the quarter to the end of August, growing from 4.1 to 4.5%, while redundancies rose to their highest level since 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).Yet the latest jobs survey from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) showed that, last month, permanent placements and temporary billings both rose sharply with vacancies expanding, albeit marginally, for the first time since February.The report said that the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures had led companies to take on more staff, although the increase in redundancies had resulted in a further, substantial increase in the availability of staff, which had dampened pay trends for both permanent and temporary workers.

The Midlands records the sharpest increase in available UK jobs

Based on an analysis by IHS Markit of data from 400 recruitment and employment consultancies, the survey found that permanent staff appointments rose across all four monitored English regions with the exception of London.The Midlands recorded the sharpest increase among the regions, with the IT and computing sector recording the biggest rise in permanent vacancies and retailing recording the largest slump in jobs.James Stewart, KPMG vice-chairman, said, “While it’s encouraging to see a further recovery in hiring activity and that growth in permanent staff appointments was the strongest for almost two years, it’s concerning to see another rapid rise in total candidate availability.
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“With increasing unease over what will happen in the coming months with the pandemic, Brexit and with the end of the furlough scheme in sight, the uncertainty for UK business is not going to dissipate anytime soon.“The government has got challenging times ahead to continue to offer adequate support to business, opportunities for jobs seekers to upskill while helping instil confidence in the UK workforce.”

ONS unemployment figures for Great Britain

Data from the ONS suggested that, last month, there were 673,000 fewer people on UK payrolls than in March, when the coronavirus lockdown started. At a rate of 6.6%, unemployment was highest in NE England, while it was 5.3% in London and 4.1% in SE England. The lowest levels of joblessness were in Wales (3.8%) and Northern Ireland (3.7%).Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said, "Since the start of the pandemic there has been a sharp increase in those out of work and job hunting but more people telling us they are not actively looking for work. There has also been a stark rise in the number of people who have recently been made redundant."

Rishi Sunak: won't "be able to save every job"

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak commented, "I’ve been honest with people from the start that we would, unfortunately, not be able to save every job. But these aren’t just statistics, they are people’s lives. That’s why trying to protect as many jobs as possible and to helping those who lose their job back into employment, is my absolute priority.“This is why we put together an unprecedented £190 billion package of support and have a comprehensive Plan for Jobs. Our measures have focused on protecting people’s livelihoods, which is what the furlough scheme has done and what our support schemes continue to do.“For those who do lose their job, there will be new opportunities through apprenticeships, traineeships and our £2 billion Kickstart scheme, and extra work search support which will help to ensure nobody is left without hope.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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