Labour market | ONS data shows unemployment drop to 4.8%

ONS data shows unemployment drop to 4.8%

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has indicated that there may be signs of recovery following the global pandemic, with UK job vacancies hitting their highest level since the start of the crisis.

ONS shared that from January to March 2021 estimates show a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate. It stated that employment was 75.2%, unemployment was 4.8% and economic activity was 21.0%.

According to The Guardian, the number of adults looking for work fell to 1.6million in the three months to March, compared with 1.7million in the three months to February.

Elsewhere, the publication reported that the quarterly unemployment rate was down to 4.8% from 4.9% in February.


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.”

ONS also revealed that the total hours worked decreased on the quarter with the reintroduction of many coronavirus restrictions.

It pointed out that young people (aged 16 to 24-years-old) have been particularly affected by the pandemic, as over the last quarter there was a decrease in the employment and unemployment rates for young people.

According to the ONS, this suggests that more young people are staying in education and are not seeking work opportunities.

Experts react to the latest data

Gerwyn Davies, Senior Labour Market Adviser for the CIPD, shared his thoughts on this: “The number of young employees remains near a post-pandemic low, which is a worry with many of this year’s crop of school and university leavers seeking to join the labour market this summer. Helping them find their first jobs should therefore be a matter of urgency for policymakers and employers.”

He noted that more generous apprenticeship incentives “that are targeted specifically at 18–24-year-olds and putting extra public resources into people management skills would help with both the recruitment and retention of younger workers”.

Despite this, the REC’s Chief Executive Neil Carberry, expressed optimism as he stated that business confidence has grown as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

“The fact that the number of payrolled employees increased during January-March alongside the headline employment rate is also a positive sign,” he said.

“With the announcement of lockdown easing in February and restrictions starting to lift in March, business confidence has grown, and we can see that in the growing number of job vacancies – especially in sectors like hospitality.”

While these figures are encouraging, Mariano Mamertino, Senior Economist, EMEA at LinkedIn, has warned that it will still take some time before the labour market returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“It will take more time, however, to get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment and bring people who were sidelined over the past year back into the labour force,” he concluded.

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