The ONS, also known as the Office for National Statistics, is an invaluable tool used both inside and outside the recruitment and employment market. It informs us of employment trends, highlights growth in certain industries, and helps us to isolate and explain the downturn or increase in market activity for specific clients.

With that in mind, looking at the Labour Force Survey (LFS) between January and March 2022 shows a significant decrease in unemployment alongside increased movement as we start to put Covid-19 behind us and return to some semblance of normal. What this means is that more people are moving jobs than they were a few months ago – and here we’re going to consider why that is.

Explaining the rise in activity across the recruitment market for 2022

Covid-19 led to a stagnation in job movement, with many workers furloughed. Those who stayed at work were unwilling to risk their livelihoods to move. However, the pandemic also enforced new ways of working and saw workers shift their priorities, with many proceeding to leave jobs where they felt undervalued and where flexibility was not part of the benefits package.

In the first three months of 2022, job-to-job moves have increased to a record high of 994,000 – driven by resignations as companies are forced to continually assess their retention rates and the way they capture the loyalty of workers, or else risk losing them to more flexible organisations.

This was matched by a significant rise in employment with the economy starting to pick back up, though the UK employment rate is still below pre-Covid-19 levels.

All in all, across the UK the number of payroll employees in April 2022 sits at 29.5 million, with total weekly hours worked hitting 1.04 billion hours between January and March 2022. This shows an increase of 14.8 million hours from the previous quarter at the end of 2021, again demonstrating an upturn in the economy and working rate of UK employees as we continue to move forward and leave the pandemic in the past.

There’s still have work to do

For the first time since records began, it appears that there are now fewer unemployed people than job vacancies. But is this a true representation of the market as it stands, and can we really compare these figures to those from years gone by?

One of the growing trends in the employment market shows that job vacancies are being left unfilled, and that companies are continuing to advertise vacancies for longer than ever before – hinting that perhaps it is not a rise in available vacancies, but rather an increase in the amount of time that such vacancies remain active.

This is further supported by the fact that the number of job vacancies in February to April 2022 rose, however the rate of vacancy growth and expansion continued to slow – showing the same jobs remaining on the market for longer, rather than a rise in new vacancies being listed.

How these stats are reflected in salaries

Finally, to the financial side of the survey, which shows an increase in employees’ average total pay of 7% – including bonuses – and an increase in regular pay (without bonuses) of 4.2%, between January and March 2022. Adjusted for inflation, this demonstrates a total growth of 1.4% for workers including bonuses, despite regular pay falling in line with inflation.

All in all, the recruitment and employment markets are on the up as we move further into 2022, with the first quarter of the year showing positive growth in terms of employment and salaries. How the rise in the cost of living impacts this remains to be seen, with the stats for quarter two anticipated at the end of June 2022.