The ONS’s most recently published labour market figures show that vacancy numbers have reached another record high with the number of payroll employees up by 207,000 having surpassed pre-pandemic levels. This is 122,000 higher than levels seen before the pandemic hit in February.
The UK’s employment rate increased by 0.5 percentage points last quarter to 75.3%, while the unemployment rate was down 0.4 percentage points to 4.5%.
The ONS stated that the number of job vacancies increased by 318,000, with all industry sectors above or equal to the levels seen between January to March last year, before the first lockdown.
Record vacancies may not be good news
According to analysis of job listings by Adzuna, people looking for work may not be in the right areas to fill them, with different regions facing different employment challenges. London is by far the worst place for workers to be in if looking for employment, with more people looking for work than jobs advertised. The capital city had 13.4% of over 16 unemployed or furloughed which was the highest in the country. Vacancies were 104% of what they were pre-pandemic, but this was the smallest growth nationally.
The opposite is true in Northern Ireland, where vacancies grew 154%, the second steepest in the country, but there are comparatively fewer people looking for work.
This location phenomenon could result in continuing crisis for businesses battling to find staff as the economy grows.
Pay increases on the rise but not enough to secure candidates
Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 7.2% and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6% among employees for the three months June to August 2021.
Darren Morgan, Director of Economic Statistics at the ONS commented: “The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus. The latest earnings continue to show growth on the year, even after taking inflation into account. However, the figures are still being affected by special factors that make it hard to read underlying trends.”
Matthew Percival, Programme Director for Skills and Inclusion at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Companies have found hiring difficult this autumn and the official data is beginning to tell the same story, with the number of people on payroll exceeding pre-COVID highs and record vacancies.
Responding to the ONS earnings and employment figures, Matt Weston, UK Managing Director of global recruitment firm Robert Half, said:
“We’re currently seeing demand above and beyond pre-pandemic levels, and despite the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ creating a tsunami of turnover, we are still experiencing a saturated market where the demand for skilled talent outstrips the supply. The competition is evident with the increase in median monthly pay showing the strength of candidates’ influence when agreeing terms with a new employer.”