Saturday , September 18 2021

UK payrolls hit pre-pandemic level with record vacancies


The number of workers on UK company payrolls climbed above its pre-pandemic level as vacancies hit a record high with firms battling staff shortages created by Brexit and lockdowns.
The figures from Office for National Statistics (ONS) included a 35% surge in job openings in the quarter to 1.03 million, the first time they’ve risen above 1 million. That shows the labour market remained buoyant over the summer even as a resurgence in virus cases and supply disruptions weighed heavily on overall economic growth.
Strength in the jobs market gives an early indication that the economy may be able to absorb many of the 1.6 million that remain furloughed as that program comes to an end this month. That may allow the Bank of England to raise interest rates in the first half of next year, according to Bloomberg Economics.
“The economy is now well-prepared for the end of furlough,” said Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, a group representing company executives.
Other groups such as the Resolution Foundation warn that many of those on furlough may end up unemployed, leaving the BOE a dilemma about how much monetary stimulus is needed to return the economy to health. The Institute for Employment Studies pointed out that figures also show the biggest drop in the size of the labour market since the 1990s.
The number of employees on company payrolls rise a record 241,000 in August, the ONS said on Tuesday. Job openings surged 35% in the quarter to 1.03 million, the first time they’ve risen above 1 million.
Many employers are struggling to find staff following a stronger-than-expected recovery from the coronavirus recession. Speaking after figures last week showed economy rapidly lost momentum in August, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said “getting jobs filled” rather than unemployment
remained the key concern.
“Record vacancies also highlight acute hiring crisis faced by many firms,” said Suren  Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce. “These recruitment difficulties are likely to dampen the recovery by limiting firms’ ability to fulfill orders and meet customer demand.”
For Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, more hiring will relieve strain on the public finances from benefits for the unemployed.
“Our plan for jobs is working,” Sunak said in a statement. “As we continue to recover from the pandemic, our focus remains on creating opportunities and supporting people’s jobs.”
There was no sign of redundancies picking ahead of expiry of the furlough scheme. Unemployment falls by 86,000 in the three months through July, the ONS said, taking the jobless rate to 4.6% from 4.7%. The number of people in work, including those on furlough rise 183,000.
“With the furlough scheme ending in little over two weeks’ time, we should expect a fresh rise in unemployment this Autumn, particularly among furloughed staff that aren’t able to return to their previous jobs,” said Nye Cominetti, senior economist at Resolution Foundation.
Average earnings grew by 8.3% in the three months through July from a year earlier, pushed higher by distortions created by the pandemic as previously furloughed workers return to full-time pay. The rate of growth slowed to just below its record rate.
That would have cost the Treasury billions of pounds had Sunak not suspended the government’s triple-lock pledge to increase pension payments by the greater of average earnings growth, inflation or 2.5%. Sunak said last week that earnings are being removed from the calculation for a year.
Demand for staff is still exerting upward pressure on underlying pay, which the ONS estimates to be running at between 3.6% and 5.1% — above pre-pandemic levels. Some BOE policy makers have expressed concern that more persistent inflation pressures could be building in the labour market.
“Pay may rise further in the coming months, supported by the recovery in the labor market,” said Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK.

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