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Roundup: UK quarterly job vacancies hit record

Job vacancies in the United Kingdom (UK) rose to a new record of 1,247,000 between October and December 2021, an increase of 462,000 from the January-to-March 2020 level, the country’s Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

The ratio of vacancies to every 100 employee jobs was also record high at 4.1 in the same period, reports Xinhua.

Most industries reported record numbers of vacancies, the office said, adding that in said period the rate of growth was slowing down.

Despite the labor shortage, earnings began to fall. Single-month growth in real average weekly earnings for November 2021 fell on the year for the first time since July 2020, at negative 0.9 percent for total pay and negative 1.0 percent for regular pay, the office said.

“Despite widespread talk of returning wage spirals, Britain is instead experiencing the return of shrinking pay packets,” said Hannah Slaughter, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank.

“The latest period of falling real wages — the third in a decade — is likely to have started as far back as last summer and is likely to continue beyond next summer too.”

The UK’s employment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points on the quarter to 75.5 percent, and the unemployment rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points to 4.1 percent, the office said.

“It’s clear that temporary and part-time work is playing a key role as people find new roles in different sectors as the economy changes rapidly,” said Neil Carberry, chief executive officer (CEO) at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

“More short-term and part-time roles may also reflect greater flexibility from firms as they struggle to hire in this market,” Carberry said.

In December 2021, the office said, there were 29.5 million employees in the UK, up 184,000 on the revised November 2021 level and up 409,000 on the pre-pandemic February 2020 level.

“All regions are now above pre-coronavirus levels, with Scotland having the largest percentage increase on the month,” it added.

“The good news is that the unemployment rate is now back to within a whisker of its pre-pandemic level but the same cannot be said for the number of people actually employed,” said Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, a UK professional organization.

“The reason for this difference is an increase in the number of people who say they are not available for work — in fact, the legacy of the pandemic appears to be this rise in economic inactivity,” Ussher explained.

“Today’s data show inactivity is particularly pronounced in people over the age of 50 with, sadly, a rise in long-term sickness in this group the driving factor.”

The recent quarterly performance of the UK’s labor market came after the ending of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in September 2021.

The scheme provided grants to employers so they could retain and continue to pay staff during coronavirus-related lockdowns by furloughing employees at up to 80 percent of their wages.

When the scheme ended, 1.2 million jobs were still on furlough on that day, said a research briefing published by the UK Parliament in December 2021.

Workers from ethnic minority groups, young workers, low-paid workers and disabled workers have been most negatively economically impacted by the pandemic, official figures showed.