ONS | Unemployment rises to 1.35million in three-month period

Unemployment rises to 1.35million in three-month period

According to data revealed in the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report, the coronavirus’ toll on the jobs market has had an extreme effect.

The report, which was released today, revealed that unemployment within the UK rose by a shocking 50,000 to 1.35million in the three-month period leading to March 2020.

This is despite employment hitting a record high before COVID-19 arrived on UK shores. The UK employment rate in the three months to March 2020 was estimated at a joint-high of 76.6%, 0.6% higher than a year earlier and 0.2% up on the previous quarter.

As a result, the total number of weekly hours worked in the three months to March 2020 was 1,040.6million, 12.4million hours less than the previous year.

What does this mean for the UK jobs market?

Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs, announced in a statement that this has turned the tides on the candidate-led trend that has been prevalent for the last decade. “While the ONS Labour Market figures don't show the full impact of COVID-19, we know that there are more people looking for work than before the outbreak and we are entering employer-led market for the first time since the Financial Crisis of 2008,” Wilson explained.

In real terms, there were an estimated 637,000 vacancies in the UK in February to April 2020; this is 170,000 fewer than the previous quarter and 210,000 fewer than a year earlier. For January to March 2020, an estimated 1.35million people were unemployed.

This is 50,000 more than a year earlier but 478,000 fewer than five years earlier. The increase on the year is the third annual increase in unemployment since May to July 2012, and it was driven by a 44,000 increase for men.

‘Green shoots starting to appear’

However, according to Wilson’s own data, the drastic dip due to the effects of coronavirus may not be a permanent change to hiring habits. He stated that, whilst the last effects of the pandemic are yet to be realised, there is some evidence to suggest that as lockdown measures are eased, the market is showing signs of resilience.

“These may be tough times for many workers, but we are seeing green shoots starting to appear, as the number of job adverts placed on Totaljobs has been increasing weekly. This is particularly the case in industries like social care, IT, engineering and manufacturing. Last week there was an 18% increase in the number of jobs advertised on Totaljobs with the highest number of vacancies on site since March,” he added.

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Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s Senior Labour Market Adviser, agreed that whilst the volatility of the jobs market is concerning, it may be temporary. “Given the extent of the economic crisis, today’s figures could be a lot worse. It is early days, but it seems that employers' first response to the pandemic has been to cut pay and recruitment rather than to make large-scale redundancies.

"Vacancies have been slashed alongside a sharp fall in pay. By contrast, the level of redundancies has not increased significantly yet. This is largely due to Government’s Job Retention Scheme and employer efforts to avoid the need for significant job cuts through a variety of tactics such as pay freezes,” said Davies.

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