British employers added a record 241,000 staff last month, lifting the total number of employees on company payrolls to just above the level before Britain first went into a Covid-19 lockdown last year, official data showed yesterday.
The robust jobs data comes as Britain’s government prepares to end its furlough programme on September 30, which helped around a third of employees at its peak, and last month was still supporting around 700,000 workers full time. Yesterday’s figures mark an upturn from July’s weak economic data, when Britain’s recovery slowed to a crawl as hundreds of thousands of workers had to stay home after being notified of contact with people who had tested positive for Covid-19.
British government bond yields rose after the data — with the two-year benchmark touching its highest since the start of the pandemic — as the figures revived questions about when the Bank of England might start to raise interest rates.
Businesses reported more than 1mn vacancies in the three months to August — an all-time high, and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.6% in the three months to July, the Office for National Statistics said, in line with economists’ expectations.
“The latest data brought more signs that labour market slack is declining fast and that labour shortages are contributing to faster underlying pay growth,” said Ruth Gregory, economist at Capital Economics.
During the three months to July, the number of people in employment, which includes the self-employed as well as employees, rose by 183,000 to 32.4mn, broadly in line with forecasts.
“The statistics show that our plan for jobs is working,” Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said.
The number of people in work on this broader measure was still well below the record 33.1mn just before the pandemic. Fewer people are self-employed and more report being unemployed or “inactive” — a category which includes many students, home-makers and those no longer looking for work.
Businesses reported 1.034mn vacancies in the three months to August, the highest since these records began in 2001.
Vacancies were especially high in sectors such as accommodation and food services, which laid off many workers last year but have seen a boom in demand as Covid-19 restrictions eased in recent months. A lack of some key workers such as truck drivers and food processing workers has caused temporary gaps in some supermarket shelves and on restaurant menus.
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