Employment figures holding steady following end of furlough scheme

80% of industries reporting record job vacancies

According to the latest labour market stats from the ONS, October saw 29.3 million employees, up by 160,000 on the revised September statistics. However, it was noted that it’s possible these figures may change while furloughed staff, who were made redundant, work out their notice period. But responses to the ONS survey suggest that redundancy numbers are likely to be a small share of those still on furlough when the scheme came to an end.

The Labour Force Survey estimates that for July to September 2021 the employment rate increased 0.4 percentage points on the quarter, to 75.4%. ONS reported that the increase in employment was because of a record high net flow from unemployment to employment. Total job-to-job moves also increased to a record high, largely driven by resignations rather than dismissals, during the same period. The rise is also driven by an increase in part-time work and an increase in the number of people on zero-hour contracts, driven by young people.

The unemployment rate decreased 0.5 percentage points to 4.3% while the inactivity rate remained unchanged at 21.1%.

But we have yet to see the full effects of the end of the furlough scheme and the relevance of zero-hour contracts in these figures. David Head, Director at TALiNT Partners commented: “Zero-hour contracts, if implemented ethically between employer and employee, are perfect because they allow flexibility in the workforce and allow businesses to expand and contract whenever necessary. However, having vast numbers of people on zero-hour contracts will inevitably mask the true numbers of the unemployed.”

The latest figures show that the number of job vacancies in August to October 2021 continued to rise to a new record of 1,172,000. This is an increase of 388,000 from pre-pandemic numbers of January to March 2020 level, with 15 of the 18 industry sectors showing record highs.

During the quarter, annual growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 5.8% and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 4.9%. Annual growth in average employee pay has been affected by temporary factors that have inflated the headline growth rate. These factors are now waning and will have a smaller impact on growth rates, according to the report.

James Reed, Chairman of REED commented on the continued increase of job vacancies: “This ongoing rise in job vacancies is a positive sign of the economy’s continued revival. Rapid job creation means there are plenty of opportunities to go around, and not just for those recently off furlough, but also for others who have faced long or short-term unemployment as well as those already in work who are seeking a new challenge.

“After experiencing a cautious labour market during the pandemic when job opportunities were restricted and workers were less incentivised to move, there has never been a better time to look for a new role than now.”

Permanent placement growth eases in October but remains sharp

The Report on Jobs is unique in providing the most comprehensive guide to the UK labour market, drawing on original survey data provided by recruitment consultancies and employers to provide the first indication each month of labour market trends.

The main findings for October are:

Permanent placement growth eases but remains sharp

October data signalled a further strong rise in recruitment activity across the UK, with both permanent placements and temp billings rising steeply. That said, the rates of expansion were the softest seen for six months, as a number of recruiters mentioned that candidate shortages had weighed on their ability to fill roles.

Candidate shortages remain severe

The overall availability of staff declined again at the start of
the fourth quarter. The rate of deterioration eased further from August’s all-time record, but was nonetheless the fifth-sharpest seen since the survey began in October 1997. Reduced candidate availability was often linked to a combination of high demand for staff, general labour shortages, fewer foreign workers and hesitancy among employees to switch or seek out new roles.

Growth of demand for staff softens only slightly

Although growth of demand for staff slipped to a five-month low in October, it remained substantial overall and much quicker than the series average. Slower, but still strong, increases in vacancies were signalled for both permanent and temporary roles.

Starting pay inflation accelerates again in October

A combination of candidate scarcity and robust demand for staff added further upward pressure on rates of starting pay. Notably, both starting salaries and temp wages increased at the quickest rates seen in over 24 years of data collection, as companies offered higher pay to attract and secure staff.


					

£1.5bn of New Funding for Transport

Local authorities have welcomed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s transport spending boost announced in the Spending Review last week. However, there was some initial confusion over how much of the £7bn Sunak said would be allocated to urban transport across England was actually new money. The DfT later confirmed that of this amount £1.5bn is new funding.  Some £4.2bn for cities was first announced in 2019, while the bus grants will be coming from the 3bn National Bus Strategy announced in March.

Greater Manchester will receive just over £1bn for Metrolink trams, bus corridors and the Bee Network active travel project.

West Midlands will get around £1bn for metro stations and bus rapid transit schemes, with West Yorkshire (£830m), South Yorkshire (£570m), Tees Valley (£310m), the West of England (£540m) and Liverpool City Region (£710m) the other beneficiaries.

However, the North East Combined Authority (NECA) missed out on transport funding as it is the only English region without an elected mayor. DfT’s spokesperson told LTT: “The last Spending Review and Budget noted that these settlements are subject to appropriate governance being in place. A mayor with transport powers that is in control of a mayoral combined authority would be an appropriate governance structure to receive this funding, and Government welcomes future devolution proposals from the North East.”  

Alongside the local transport spending pledges, the announcement for the Road Investment Strategy 2 money was revised down from the £27.4bn announced last year to £24bn. The DfT said this was due to delays to the major schemes at Stonehenge and the Lower Thames Crossing. “The A303 at Stonehenge has not been cancelled,” DfT’s spokesperson said. “The secretary of state will now redetermine the application, and as a live planning case, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time. 

“The Government is still spending £27bn on major roads schemes, just over a slightly longer period as a result of delays to some major schemes, including Stonehenge.”

In July campaigners won a High Court case to prevent the £1.7bn scheme that includes a tunnel near Stonehenge. 

There were expectations that the chancellor would raise the prospect of new forms of road charging but this was not mentioned, and Fuel Duty was frozen for the twelfth year.

HS2 dig unearths “astounding” Roman statues

Archaeologists working on HS2 project have uncovered a set of rare Roman statues whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.

The work has been carried out by HS2’s Enabling Works Contractor Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, BAM Nuttall and Ferrovial Agroman), and its archaeological contactor, L-P Archaeology.

In the final stages of the excavation at the site of the old St Mary’s Norman church in Stoke Mandeville, archaeologists were excavating a circular ditch around what was thought to be the foundations of an Anglo-Saxon tower.

As they dug down, they uncovered three stone busts which are stylistically Roman. Two of the busts comprise of a head and torso which had been split before deposition, and the other just the head. The two complete statues appear to be one female adult and one male adult, with an additional head of a child.

You can view the video of the discoveries on the following link:

In addition to the statues, an incredibly well-preserved hexagonal glass Roman jug was also discovered. Despite being in the ground for what is thought to be over 1,000 years, the glass jug had large pieces still intact.

The team can only find one comparison for this, a completely intact vessel which is currently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Other finds include large roof tiles, painted wall plaster, and Roman cremation urns.

Dr Rachel Wood of AECOM, Lead Archaeologist for Fusion JV, said: “For us to end the dig with these utterly astounding finds is beyond exciting. The statues are exceptionally well preserved, and you really get an impression of the people they depict – literally looking into the faces of the past is a unique experience.

“Of course, it leads us to wonder what else might be buried beneath England’s medieval village churches. This has truly been a once in a lifetime site and we are all looking forward to hearing what more the specialists can tell us about these incredible statues and the history of the site before the construction of the Norman church.”

Mike Court, Lead Archaeologist at HS2 said: “HS2’s unprecedented archaeology programme has given us new insights into Britain’s history, providing evidence of where and how our ancestors lived.

“These extraordinary Roman statues are just some of the incredible artefacts uncovered between London and the West Midlands. As HS2 builds for Britain’s future, we are uncovering and learning about the past, leaving a legacy of knowledge and discovery.”