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Pay-rolled staff at pre-pandemic level

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Job vacancies rise to over one million to set new record

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with August payrolls showing a monthly increase of 241,000 to 29.1 million. The number of job vacancies in the three months to August has also risen above one million for the first time since records began in 2001.

Speaking to the BBC, ONS deputy statistician Jonathan Athow, warned that well over a million are still on furlough and the recovery is not even, with London still down, young workers disproportionately affected, and sectors like hospitality slower to recover. The biggest rise in job vacancies was in the food and accommodation sectors, up by 57,600 in August.

While the overall unemployment rate fell from 4.7% to 4.6% in the three months to July, this is against the backdrop of acute talent shortages. Various trade bodies, including the British Chambers of Commerce, blamed Brexit and Covid for declines in labour supply and warned that ‘the end of furlough is unlikely to be a silver bullet to the ongoing shortages’.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said: “The Government has convened a cross-department forum to tackle these shortages, but this will only be effective if industry experts are involved as well. Government must work with business to improve training opportunities for workers to transition into the most crucial sectors and allow some flexibility in the immigration system at this time of need. And while businesses are raising salaries in many sectors, they must think more broadly about how they will attract and retain staff through improved conditions, facilities, and staff engagement, working with recruiters, who are the professional experts in all of this.”

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo, added: “The fact that pay has returned to pre-pandemic levels at last is a positive sign for the economy, however, we are seeing employers simply needing to increase remuneration as staff shortages continue to impact hiring activity. The increasing dearth of talent that businesses across the country are reporting is a real concern to the recruitment sector.”

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