The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have been released, and they help us analyse how the labour market is recovering as we enter into a post-pandemic world.

Overall, the figures show that total hours worked continued to increase from the low levels in the previous quarter. In addition, there has been an improvement on the number of job vacancies when compared with summer of last year when vacancies were down by nearly 60% year on year.

The employment rate still sits at 75%; while this is an increase when looking at year-on-year figures, we can see clear signs of this improving as more and more Government restrictions are eased.

Payroll and salary

When looking at the latest ONS data, we can see an increase in the number of people in payrolled employment in February this year compared with the previous month. Also, taking a look at early estimates for February 2021, we can see that median monthly paid went up by almost 4%, compared with the same period of time last year.

In total, there were 68,000 more people employed in February 2021 than in January 2021. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the sector which saw the largest increase was the health and social work sector (a total rise of 132,000 members of staff), while the accommodation and food services sector saw a decrease in the number of employees as national lockdown measures continue in the UK.

While it’s difficult to predict the future of these sectors as the Government’s plan for the next few months is subject to change at any time, it’s not an impossible feat to imagine that the accommodation and food services industries will make a large comeback as limits on social contact ease and the population rushes, en masse, to do what we’ve been missing out on for so long.

Median monthly pay for February 2021 sat at around £1,930, an increase of 3.9% compared with February of 2020. This monthly figure is one we’ll hope to continue to see grow when compared with the same period last year as the pandemic hit, with median pay taking the sharpest dip in April of 2020, only returning to the previous trend in August 2020 when lockdown measures were eased slightly and before they were tightened again during the winter months.


Employment in different sectors

It’s good news for those who work, or are looking to work, in the construction, transportation and storage, and information and communication sectors. These industries saw the biggest growth in the number of employees – much higher than the average across the UK.

All sectors experienced a drop off in that figure during April 2020 as the pandemic began, but some sectors have largely recovered since then.  

Public administration and defence and health and social work now both have a positive growth rate and are exceeding where they were this time last year.

Two sectors which were hit the hardest in terms of employee growth at the start of the pandemic in April of last year, finance and insurance, and education, have seen their numbers slowly recovering at the start of this year.

Employment and unemployment in the UK

Looking at the employment figures for between November 2020 and January 2021, we can see 32.37 million people aged between 16 and over were in employment.

While there is a drop when compared with the same time period last year, things are looking up in terms of the number of redundancies and the number of hours worked by employees in recent months.

An increase of 968 million hours per week was reported between August-October 2020 and November-January 2021. Average actual weekly hours worked jumped to 29.9 hours a week on the quarter.

Between November last year and January this year, reports of redundancy increased but there’s since been a drop off in this figure on the quarter, decreasing by 2.3 per thousand.


Vacancies and Jobs in the UK

After a boost towards the end of last year, the number of job vacancies fell slightly at the start of the year. But now, early figures suggest a potential acceleration into March.

At the start of the pandemic, the number of job vacancies declined sharply – around April 2020. Signs of quick recovery on this front were seen, but this slowed into late autumn as restrictions were reintroduced as we entered the winter months of 2020.

The industries which have fared the best in terms of maintaining or accelerating their number of vacancies are construction; public administration and defence and compulsory social security; and electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning. All of these sectors have seen a maintenance or boost to the number of vacancies annually since the start of the pandemic.

The most notable sector which experienced growth was the public administration and defence and compulsory social security industry which is up by nearly 60% – largely driven by temporary recruitment for the 2021 Census.



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