Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

UK employee numbers surge above pre-pandemic level

Economic IndicatorsSep 14, 2021 04:46AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a job centre following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manchester, Britain, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) -British employers added a record 241,000 staff last month, lifting the total number of employees on company payrolls to just above the level before Britain first went into a COVID-19 lockdown last year, official data showed on Tuesday.

The robust jobs data comes as Britain's government prepares to end its furlough programme on Sept. 30, which helped around a third of employees at its peak, and last month was still supporting around 700,000 workers full time.

Tuesday's figures mark an upturn from July's weak economic data, when Britain's recovery slowed to a crawl as hundreds of thousands of workers had to stay home after being notified of contact with people who had tested positive for COVID-19.

British government bond yields rose after the data - with the two-year benchmark touching its highest since the start of the pandemic - as the figures revived questions about when the Bank of England might start to raise interest rates.

Businesses reported more than 1 million vacancies in the three months to August - an all-time high, and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.6% in the three months to July, the Office for National Statistics said, in line with economists' expectations in a Reuters poll.

"The latest data brought more signs that labour market slack is declining fast and that labour shortages are contributing to faster underlying pay growth," said Ruth Gregory, economist at Capital Economics.

During the three months to July, the number of people in employment, which includes the self-employed as well as employees, rose by 183,000 to 32.4 million, broadly in line with forecasts.

"Today's statistics show that our plan for jobs is working," finance minister Rishi Sunak said.

The number of people in work on this broader measure was still well below the record 33.1 million just before the pandemic. Fewer people are self-employed and more report being unemployed or "inactive" - a category which includes many students, home-makers and those no longer looking for work.


Businesses reported 1.034 million vacancies in the three months to August, the highest since these records began in 2001.

Vacancies were especially high in sectors such as accommodation and food services, which laid off many workers last year but have seen a boom in demand as COVID-19 restrictions eased in recent months.

A lack of some key workers such as truck drivers and food processing workers has caused temporary gaps in some supermarket shelves and on restaurant menus.

"Ongoing supply and labour shortages are impeding further growth," said Matthew Percival, director of people and skills at the Confederation of British Industry.

The CBI and other business groups have been calling on the government to temporarily relax new post-Brexit immigration rules while they train new workers.

Businesses have reported pay pressure rising sharply. Tuesday's official data showed average weekly earnings in the three months to July were 8.3% higher than the year before, just below the all-time high of 8.8% for the three months to July.

The ONS said these hefty increases should not be taken at face value as low-paid jobs were more likely to have been cut over the past year, and fewer people were now on reduced furlough pay.

Pay excluding bonuses rose by 6.8% year on year in the three months to July, and the ONS said the true underlying rate was probably somewhere between 3.6% and 5.1% -- still high by pre-pandemic standards.

Britain's job market offers a challenge for the BoE as it tries to judge how persistent inflation pressures and supply-chain bottlenecks are likely to be.

Last month, half BoE's policymakers judged that some basic conditions for a rate rise had already been met, but others stressed there was still significant slack in the job market.

Gregory from Capital Economics said she expected labour shortages would be temporary.

"The danger is that they persist for longer than we expect, causing inflation to stay high and the Bank of England to pull the interest rate trigger next year," she added.

Financial markets price in a first rate rise to 0.25% from 0.1% by May, while economists polled by Reuters on average see one by late 2022.

UK employee numbers surge above pre-pandemic level

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email