The latest Office for National Statistics data has been revealed for the weeks preceding April 2021.

Here’s a summary of the main points we can draw from the data:

  • The unemployment rate in the UK has fallen
  • There are a record number of those aged 16 and up who’ve classified themselves as being in full time education than ever before
  • More vacancies are available in certain sectors as firms prepared themselves for the first stages of the UK’s exit from lockdown
  • The percentage of businesses currently trading rose

Things are largely quite slow to change, especially when we look at data month-on-month, as we have been since the start of this year. So rather than rehashing the same information from our previous articles again, how about hopping back to catch up? If you’ve missed one of our previous ONS data summaries and want to see how things have developed over the past few months, click one of the blog posts below…

March 2021

February 2021

All caught up? Let’s dive into the latest data then…


Average weekly earnings

December of last year to February of this year saw growth in the average total pay (including bonuses) of 4.5% across the UK, and a growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) of 4.4%.

It’s good news across the board too as all sectors saw positive pay growth for the period of three months (December 2020 – February 2021). The news seems even better when compared with the figures from nearly a year ago. The accommodation and food services sector in particular saw a negative pay growth rate between April and June of 2020 where activities decreased by nearly 10%.

Immediately before any impact of the coronavirus pandemic could be felt, pay growth sat comfortably at between 2.8% and 2.9% in December 2019 to February 2020. It then slowed sharply in April to June 2020 to negative 1.3% for total pay and negative 0.1% for regular pay before increasing.


Vacancies and Jobs in the UK

While, overall, the number of vacancies appears have slowed down when compared with this time last year, experimental single-month statistics indicate a strong increase in March and Experimental Statistics of online job adverts provided by Adzuna suggest a potential acceleration into April.

When looking at online vacancies through data provided by Adzuna, there were nearly 16% more jobs available in March 2021 compared with the previous month. In addition, the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning sector saw a boost to the number of vacancies which is thought to be largely driven  by firms who were preparing themselves for re-opening and an influx of work as the UK opened back up again and lockdown restrictions began to lift.

The other industries which haven’t had a reduction in the number of job listings were construction; public administration and defence and compulsory social security; and water, sewerage, waste management and remediation services.


Employment in the UK: April 2021

According to the Government website, UK unemployment is defined thusly in ONS figures:

“Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are available to start work within the next two weeks. The unemployment rate is not the proportion of the total population who are unemployed. It is the proportion of the economically active population (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.”

December 2020 to February 2021 estimates show a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate, the first quarterly decrease since October to December 2019

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.9%, 0.9 percentage points higher than a year earlier but 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.


The boost to student numbers

While stories about the lack of high quality education during times of distance learning and lockdown measures dominate the headlines, it appears that the bad press isn’t putting potential students off. In fact, quite the opposite.

When analysing employment data, ONS look at the rate of economic inactivity. This means those who are between the ages of 16 and 64 who do not have a job but are not classed as unemployed because they are not currently seeking work within the last four weeks and/or they are unable to start work within the next two weeks. This includes those not able to work due to disability, those not working to look after children, and those in full time education.

The economic inactivity rate for young people (those aged 16 to 24 years) increased by a record 4.1 percentage points when compared with the same time last year, and 1.7 percentage points when compared with the last quarter. The statistics now show a record high of 41.1%.

In comparison, over the last quarter, there was a decrease in the employment rate for young people while the unemployment rate for young people was largely flat (Figure 7). This suggests that more young people are staying in education and not looking for work, which is supported by the fact that the proportion of young people in full-time education has reached record highs during the pandemic, at around 46%.


Business insights and impact on the UK economy

The percentage of businesses currently trading has increased from 71% in early January 2021 to 77% in mid-April 2021.

With coronavirus restrictions easing in the UK, 9% of business owners have said that they intend to restart trading in the next two weeks (up 4 percentage points from late March to early April 2021). So it’s likely we’ll continue to see an increase in the percentage of trading business when looking at next month’s data too.

The end of lockdown might also mean the end of furlough too! The number  of firms who have members of staff on furlough has dropped from 19% in mid-March 2021 to 17% in late March 2021, after increasing from 11% in early December 2020.


In conclusion…

This should be the last set of data we see that is comparing itself to a pre-COVID world. It’ll be interesting to see how the figures measure up!

We’ll hopefully see great improvement next month – not only due to the fact that the UK is leaving lockdown behind (hopefully for good this time!), but also because we should see an extremely stark disparity between the unfortunate circumstances of last year contrasted with the hopeful beginnings of life after COVID.

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