Job vacancies at record levels and unemployment down as Lancashire returns to work after the pandemic

UK worker numbers have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels after the biggest jump in employment since 2014, new figures show.

By Tim Gavell
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 12:30 pm

The Office for National Statistics said the number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 241,000 between July and August to move 1,000 above levels before the coronavirus outbreak.

It also said the rate of unemployment dropped again, by 0.1 per cent to 4.6 per cent for the three months to July

Meanwhile, vacancy numbers soared by 249,000 to more than one million for the first time since records began amid labour shortages in some key UK industries.

Unemployment is easing across the county as people return to work after the effects of the coronavirus lockdowns

Across Lancashire, the number of people claiming work-related benefits such as Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance, fell in all constituencies in August as people moved back into work following the easing of coronavirus restrictions earlier in the summer.

In the Blackpool North and Cleveleys constituency there were 3,555 people claiming benefits in August, 7.3 per cent of the population there and a figure down 2.2 per cent on the same month last year.

In Blackpool South there were 5,060, 10.3 per cent of the population, a figure down 2.9 per cent on August last year. In Chorley there were 2,395 claimants, 3.7 per cent of the population and down 1.2 per cent on last year.

Fylde had 1,905 claiming, 3.8 per cent of the population and down 1.7 per cent on 2020; Lancaster and Fleetwood had 2,490 claiming, 4.1 per cent of the population and down 0.9 per cent on last August.

Preston had 4,770 claimants, 7.3 per cent of the population and down 1 per cent on last year; Ribble Valley had 1,640 claiming, 2.7 per cent of the population and down 1.1 per cent on last year.

South Ribble had 1,740 claiming, 2.9 per cent and down 1.2 per cent on last year while Wyre and Preston North had 1,320 claimants, 2.5 per cent of the population, down 1.3 per cent on last August.

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “Early estimates from payroll data suggest that in August the total number of employees is around the same level as before the pandemic, though our surveys show well over a million are still on furlough.

“However, this recovery isn’t even: in hard-hit areas such as London, and sectors such as hospitality and arts and leisure, the numbers of workers remain well down on pre-pandemic levels.

“The overall employment rate continues to recover, particularly among groups such as young workers who were hard hit at the outset of the pandemic, while unemployment has fallen.”

The ONS also reported an increase in the employment rate among people aged between 16 and 24, alongside a decrease in the unemployment and inactivity rates.

Young people had seen particularly significant increases in unemployment as retail, hospitality and leisure roles were impacted by the pandemic.

The latest figures showed significant growth in these industries, as they helped push vacancies to record levels.

The number of job vacancies recorded between June to August 2021 was 1,034,000, with the accommodation and food services industry seeing a 75.4 per cent increase in the number of job openings.

Mr Athow added that the hospitality sector recorded “the highest proportion of employers reporting their job openings are hard to fill”.

Siren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce said many companies faced an "acute hiring crisis".

He said: "With Brexit and Covid-19 driving a more deep-seated decline in labour supply, the end of furlough is unlikely to be a silver bullet to the ongoing shortages. These recruitment difficulties are likely to dampen the recovery by limiting firms' ability to fulfil orders and meet customer demand."

Meanwhile, the ONS also reported a continued increase in wage growth, with total earnings, including bonuses, rising by 8.3 per cent for the three months to July against the same period last year.

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