UK crisis: Job vacancies rise above one million for the first time since records began

BBC Breakfast: Warhurst grills TUC chief over ‘fair economy’ plan

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According to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), in the three months up to August vacancies rose to over one million. It marked a record high for vacancies, with the figure being over a million for the first time since records began in 2001.

In the ONS’ September 2021 labour market overview, it said “the most recent data show the labour market continuing to recover”.

It held the number of job vacancies in June to August 2021 was 1,034,000.

The figure is now 249,000 above its pre-pandemic January to March 2020 level.

It also grew on the quarter in June to August 2021 by 269,300, equalling 35.2 percent, with all industry sectors increasing their number of vacancies and the majority reaching record levels.

Other findings from the ONS’ report held employee numbers were back at pre-Covid levels in August.

August payrolls showed another monthly increase of 241,000 to 29.1 million.

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy statistician, 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, Mr Athow warned the recovery was not even, with areas such as London and sectors like hospitality and the arts still down.

The ONS also outlined that young people had been badly affected by job losses, with the statistician adding: “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.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak praised the new figures, saying the Government’s plan is “working”.

He added: “Today’s statistics show that our plan for jobs is working.

“As we continue to recover from the pandemic, our focus remains on creating opportunities and supporting people’s jobs.”

It comes after he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched an “after the jabs, the jobs” push on Monday.

The push is a £650  billion initiative which the Government says will deliver 425,000 new jobs a year over the next four years.

The Prime Minister said: “Business confidence is growing and thanks to the action we’ve taken we’re expected to see two million fewer people out of work.

“We are investing in our Plan for Jobs because supporting people into work, ensuring they get the skills they need to get good jobs and helping businesses fill their vacancies is the best way to get the economy moving.“

Mr Sunak said: “This isn’t just about numbers – our Plan for Jobs is also about giving people the hope and opportunity to meet their potential as we emerge from the pandemic and the economy recovers.”

Siren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce told the BBC firms were currently facing 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.”

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG, also added: “While the pressure should ease as more people look to return to work and the furlough scheme ends, the UK labour market is set to remain choppy with vacancies taking time to fill due to skills shortages and reduced availability of overseas workers.”

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