UK jobs market bounces back as number of payrolled workers spikes


The number of UK workers on payrolls increased by almost 200,000 between April and May this year as the jobs market continued to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis. 

There were 197,000 workers added to payrolls last month, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak seizing on the figures as proof that his ‘Plan for Jobs’ ‘is working’. 

However, the overall workforce remains significantly smaller than it was before the pandemic struck last year, with the number of UK workers on payrolls still down by 553,000. 

An optimistic Mr Sunak said the number of employees on payrolls is now ‘at its highest level since April last year’.  

The number of UK workers on payrolls increased by almost 200,000 between April and May this year as the jobs market continued to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis

The number of UK workers on payrolls increased by almost 200,000 between April and May this year as the jobs market continued to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis

There were 197,000 workers added to payrolls last month, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak seizing on the figures as proof that his 'Plan for Jobs' 'is working'

There were 197,000 workers added to payrolls last month, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak seizing on the figures as proof that his ‘Plan for Jobs’ ‘is working’

Data published this morning by the Office for National Statistics showed that ‘the number of payrolled employees has increased for the sixth consecutive month, up by 197,000 in May 2021 to 28.5 million’. 

The ONS said the latest figures suggested that the ‘jobs market is showing signs of recovery’. 

But he fact that the number of payrolled workers is still 553,000 below pre-pandemic levels is likely to cause alarm.  

The ONS said that since February last year the largest falls in employment have been seen in the accommodation and food services sector. 

People aged under 25 and people living in London have been among the worst hit. 

Those groups have now also seen the largest monthly increases in employment as lockdown rules have eased but they are still ‘well below pre-pandemic levels’.

The ONS numbers also showed that the number of job vacancies in the period between March and May this year was 758,000. 

This was just 27,000 below the level recorded before the pandemic between January and March 2020.   

Mr Sunak said: ‘Our Plan for Jobs is working – the latest forecasts for unemployment are around half of what was previously feared and the number of employees on payroll is at its highest level since April last year.

‘We understand the value of work and the distress caused by unemployment – that is why we are continuing to support people and jobs.

‘The furlough scheme is running all the way through until September and we are creating new routes into work through apprenticeships, Kickstart placements for young people as well as targeted support for the long-term unemployed.’

Labour’s shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said the figures showed ‘just how fragile our jobs recovery can be’ as she criticised the Government for failing to extend the furlough scheme after Boris Johnson yesterday delayed the end of lockdown by four weeks. 

She said: ‘The lack of clarity in the Government’s announcement yesterday on how they will support workers and businesses given the delay in their own roadmap – a result of their incompetence protecting our borders from new variants – is as unsurprising as it is disappointing.

‘For sectors like hospitality, tourism, and our music industry that continue to be affected by restrictions, a month is a long time. Many businesses have financial pinch points coming up but are still struggling to turn a profit.

Mr Sunak said the 'number of employees on payroll is at its highest level since April last year'

Mr Sunak said the ‘number of employees on payroll is at its highest level since April last year’

‘If businesses have to stay closed or operate at massively reduced capacity they’re not going to be able to pay staff, rents and loans back. Government support must recognise that.

‘The short-termism of this government is exhausting businesses and workers, and they must be clear how they will support firms hit by the Government’s delay in the roadmap.’

Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: ‘The number of employees on payroll grew strongly in May, up by almost 200,000, although it is still over half a million down since the pandemic struck.

‘Job vacancies continued to recover in the spring, and our early estimates suggest that by May the total had surpassed its pre-pandemic level, with strong growth in sectors such as hospitality.

‘Meanwhile the redundancy rate remains subdued, while the number of employees on furlough has continued to decline.’



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