Though there's a shortfall in workers, the statistics agency said the number of workers on payroll in the U.K. rose to a record 29.2 million in September as the British economy bounced back following the lifting of restrictions.
The International Monetary Fund forecast Tuesday that the U.K. will grow by 6.8% this year, more than any other Group of Seven industrial nation, and by a still-high 5% next. That means the economy will have recouped the 9.8% output lost during 2020 after the pandemic struck some time next year.
The increase in hiring and vacancies should help workers returning to the jobs market following the end of a salary support program at the end of last month, which the government introduced at the outset of the pandemic to keep a lid on job losses.
For much of the time that the Job Retention Scheme was in place, the government paid 80% of the salaries of those workers unable to work because of lockdown measures. At its peak, it helped support over 11 million people, but with many workers returning to their former jobs following the reopening of the economy, that fell to a little more than 1 million.
The unemployment figures provided further evidence that the program did what it was intended to to. The statistics agency found that the U.K.'s rate of unemployment also fell further to 4.5% between June and August, down from 4.6% in the quarter to July.
Wages rose steeply again, with average weekly earnings up 7.2% with bonuses or 6% without bonuses in the three months to August. However, the agency stressed that the figures continue to be skewed by the impact of the pandemic on wages a year ago.
With inflation set to hit 4% in the coming months and productivity levels low, there are worries that wages will soon be running below price rises, further pressuring household incomes at a time when the tax burden is at its highest level in decades.
FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 file photo, lorries queue in Dover, England. It was late on Christmas Eve in 2020 when the European Union and Britain finally clinched a Brexit trade deal after years of wrangling, threats and missed deadlines to seal their divorce. There was hope that now separated Britain and the 27-nation bloc would sail their relationship toward calmer waters. But, such was the bile and bad blood stirred up by the diplomatic brinkmanship and bitter divorce that, two months from another Christmas, insults of treachery and duplicitousness are flying again. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)
Credit: Frank Augstein
Credit: Frank Augstein