But will Omicron undo gains made in the economy?
According to the latest unemployment stats released by ONS, there were 29.4m employees in the UK. This is an increase of 257,000 on revised October 2021 figures and up 424,000 on pre-pandemic February 2020 figures.
However, ONS stated that redundancies made at the end of the furlough scheme could be included in the Real Time Information (RTI) data for a few more months. But responses to the business survey, stated that redundancy numbers are likely to be a small number of those employees still on furlough at the end of September.
The latest Labour Force Survey indicates that employment rose by 0.2 percentage points from August to October with the number of part-time workers decreasing dramatically during the pandemic.
Decreasing employment rates among young people (those aged 16 to 24 years) have been notable during the pandemic, with unemployment and economic inactivity rates increasing by more than for those aged 25 years and over. But according to the survey, there was an increase in the employment rate and a decrease in the unemployment rate to below pre-coronavirus rates.
Numbers of job vacancies continued to rise to a new record of 1,219m jobs – that is an astounding increase of 434,500 from pre-COVID figures of January to March of 2020.
Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), commented: “The issue of labour shortages is hugely challenging for employers right now, as vacancies continue to hit new highs and unemployment remains low. But the real elephant in the room is rising inactivity and a smaller UK workforce – people either not in the UK or not looking for work. Reflecting this, overall hours worked are still well below our pre-pandemic numbers. This is a huge challenge to business and government. New approaches to recruitment and workforce planning are needed – and genuine partnership between government and employers on skills, unemployment support and sensible immigration rules.
“We don’t know yet how the Omicron variant will affect the jobs market, but it is clear that supporting businesses to retain staff and maintain cashflow was a successful strategy in 2020, and we may need to dust off those plans again if we are headed for a longer period of restrictions.”
James Reed, chairman of Reed, also commented: “There’s been plenty of talk from doomsayers that the Omicron variant will plunge us back into economic despair, but the outlook appears much more optimistic now compared with the first COVID-19 wave we faced in March 2020.”
He continued: “While some may want you to think the omicron variant has tipped the battle against COVID-19 in the virus’s favour, the reality is that, according to our jobs data, there are better opportunities and better negotiations for workers to have with employers than ever before. It’s currently the best time in fifty years to look for a new job and I’d urge anyone thinking of a change in career to begin their search for a fresh start in the new year.”