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UK job vacancies surge to over 1 million for first time ever

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Watch: Worker numbers bounce back to pre-pandemic levels as vacancies hit record high

Job vacancies in the UK have now risen above 1 million for the first time ever, figures released on Tuesday morning have shown.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of job vacancies in June to August 2021 was 1,034,000. This is now 249,000 above its pre-coronavirus pandemic January to March 2020 level.

Companies have been on a hiring spree across the board as the economy unlocks. June to August 2021 saw vacancies grow on the quarter by 269,300 (35.2%), with all industry sectors increasing their number of vacancies, with the majority reaching record levels; the largest increase was seen in accommodation and food services, which rose by 57,600 (75.4%).

Meanwhile, the total number of workforce jobs in the UK in June 2021 was an estimated 34.8 million, down by 856,000 from December 2019; both employee jobs and self-employment jobs showed upward movement to increase the overall workforce jobs figure by 293,000 on the quarter, the highest quarterly increase since March 2014.

The positive figures are counteracted by the impending end of the furlough scheme.

"There were 1.6 million people on furlough at the end of July, and with the end of furlough looming, this is likely to mean hundreds of thousands of people looking for work," says Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Coles notes that the issue is most jobseekers don't want to take on the jobs in the industries with the most vacancies such as accommodation and services, creating a potential labour crunch.

File photo dated 17/02/16 of a Job Centre Plus in London. Britain saw a record 356,000 increase in the number of workers on payrolls last month and vacancies soared as the economy recovered, official figures have shown. Issue date: Thursday July 15, 2021.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of job vacancies in June to August 2021 was 1,034,000. Photo: PA

"In both cases, these shortages were caused by people leaving the sector to work elsewhere, either in another country or another sector. Problems were also exacerbated by workers being reluctant to return.

"Among hauliers, the ageing workforce is a major factor, as older workers are considering retiring instead of getting back on the road. Among accommodation and food services, some of the issue is the higher economic inactivity of younger people."

Hannah Audino, economist at PwC, agreed that the adjustment following the end of furlough might "moderate the recovery" in the coming months, while analysts at AJ Bell noted that the issue could be that vacancies wont be filled due to the fact that not everyone can relocate for work.

Read more: Peptone: Putting molecular physics at the heart of UK's next billion-pound pharma company

Alarm bells have been sounding increasingly loudly in recent weeks in the UK labour market as a shortage of HGV drivers has meant shops and restaurant chains have run out of key products.

There has also been concern in the services sector with the "pingdemic" meaning many workers had to self-isolate, causing shortages.

Chancellor Rishi sunak was optimistic following the numbers, saying the statistics show the "Plan for Jobs" is working.

“The unemployment rate has fallen for seven months in a row, the number of employees on payrolls is back above pre-pandemic levels and there were fewer potential redundancies notified in August than at any point since the start of last year," he said.

Industry body CBI called for a long-term re-skilling plan and a Shortage Occupation List in the wake of the numbers, so that firms can temporarily fill the most significant vacancies.

Watch: HGV driving tests to be relaxed to help lorry driver shortages ahead of Christmas

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