Mirror Online: LONDON, England – The number of UK workers on payrolls has fallen by 772,000 since the pandemic struck, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today revealed.
However unemployment is slowing falling, with the total number of people in jobs rising 97,000 between March and April as lockdown restrictions slowly eased.
The numbers are forecast to increase further over the next quarter as thousands more businesses return to trading, with ministers hoping to ease all restrictions by mid-June.
Overall, unemployment dropped slightly to 4.8% in the first quarter of the year as the jobs market showed “early signs of recovery”, the figures show.
The jobless rate for the January-March period was down from 4.9 percent a month earlier, the ONS said.
Separate figures from HM Revenue and Customs showed 97,000 people were added to UK payrolls in April – the fifth increase in a row.
However the total number of people in jobs as measured this way was still 772,000 lower than before the pandemic.
The ONS said: “The latest figures suggest that the jobs market has been broadly stable in recent months, with some early signs of recovery.”
However, there are concerns unemployment could creep up this autumn when the Chancellor’s furlough scheme closes – prompting businesses to tally up their losses after a year of restrictions.
Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, 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.”
Morgan said the improvement in figures mirrored the first lockdown.
“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. “
Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said the government’s plan for jobs scheme will help “create new opportunities” for workers locked out of jobs as a result of Covid.
This includes a new Kickstart Scheme to help enrol more young people onto apprenticeships.
She said: “A continued fall in unemployment, a further rise in vacancies, and growth in the employment rate is welcome news as we continue on our roadmap to recovery.
“While there is more to do to make sure we support jobseekers over the coming months, these figures highlight the resilience of our jobs market and ability for employers to adapt – and through our Plan for Jobs we’re continuing to create new opportunities for people right across the country,”
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak added: “While sadly not every job can be saved, nearly 2 million fewer people are now expected to be out of work than initially expected – showing our Plan for Jobs is working.
“Thousands of young people are finding work through our Kickstart scheme, and the extension of the furlough and self-employed support schemes beyond the end of the roadmap means people’s jobs will continue to be protected while the economy gradually reopens.”
Jack Kennedy, UK economist at jobsite Indeed said April’s figures mark the biggest monthly jump for over six years.
“Things are getting particularly hot in the hospitality sector, which is at last able to serve meals indoors in Britain. After months in the deep freeze, pub and restaurant employers are once again cooking on gas.”
Indeed figures show that across the UK, food preparation and service vacancies have jumped to 14% above their pre-pandemic level.
“Such strong demand for hospitality workers is pushing up average wages at a brisk pace – up by 1.6% in the past month alone – as employers compete for the best staff,” he said.
“With other sectors still recording negligible wage growth, hospitality is leading the way in the return to normality.
“While the withdrawal of the furlough scheme later this year could push up the unemployment rate again, for now the sense that it has reached a high water mark is very welcome.”