UK job vacancies hit highest level since the start of the pandemic

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Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that job vacancies in the UK have hit their highest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From February-to-April period there were more than 657,000 vacancies across the country – up about 48,400 on the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.8% in the three months to March, down from 4.9% in February. The employment rate was estimated at 75.2%, 1.4 percentage points lower than before the pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020) but 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

The announcement is primarily driven by the easing of lockdown measures, and employers have started recruitment drives across the country.

ONS said the number of workers on payrolls in the UK had risen by more than 97,000 between March and April. However, this total is 772,000 less than pre-pandemic levels.

ONS Director of Economic Statistics Darren Morgan said: “The number of employees on payroll rose strongly in April as the economy began to reopen, continuing the improvement from its November trough. There remains, however, three-quarters of a million people fewer on the payroll compared with the pre-pandemic peak. With many businesses reopening, the recent recovery in job vacancies continued into April, especially in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment. The renewed lockdown at the beginning of 2021 saw a sharp rise in the number of previously unemployed people no longer looking for work, helping the unemployment rate to fall on the quarter. This mirrored what happened during the first lockdown.”

Industry reaction

Commenting on UK unemployment falling to 4.8% in March Ian Warwick, Managing Partner at Deepbridge Capital, said: “While today’s data marks just a slight fall in the UK unemployment rate it follows positive GDP data last week to be yet further evidence that the economy is moving in the right direction at a significant pace. As we focus on economic recovery, it remains critically important that scale-up businesses, particularly in high-growth sectors such as digital technologies and life sciences are supported; as they will be at the very heart of economic growth as we create an economy fit for the twenty-first century. Government initiatives such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) have never been more important for helping entrepreneurs and innovators source the funding they require, whilst also offering private investors with tax incentives to develop UK-supporting private equity portfolios. With our EIS funds reaching record levels of funding in 2020/21 it is evident that there is considerable demand from investors and financial advisers alike to invest in early-stage UK companies which we believe will be at the forefront of our economic recovery.”

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