UK job vacancies at record high as wages pick up

Job vacancies have hit a record high as the UK's labour market continues to "rebound robustly", according to the latest official figures.

The number of vacancies hit 953,000 in the three months to July, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in the three months to June, while the annual growth in average pay was 7.4%.

However, the ONS urged caution in reading too much into the rise in wages.

ONS deputy statistician Jonathan Athow told the BBC that while the rise in average pay "hasn't been that high for a long time", it also compares to last year when millions of people were on furlough and were not being paid their full wage.

"This time last year we had millions of people on furlough many getting 80% of their wages, other people having their hours cut, and that pushed wages down," he said.

"So when we look at wages this year, when people have come back from furlough, it's really been boosted by the fact that last year wages were quite low. Some of this group was just wages returning to the level before the pandemic."

The ONS said payrolls rose by 182,000 between June and July, although at 28.9 million it is still 201,000 lower than before the pandemic struck.

The number of people on payroll has now grown over half a million in the past three months, regaining about four-fifths of the fall seen at the start of the pandemic.

There are, however, record numbers of unfilled jobs, in sectors such as entertainment, accommodation and food, underlining the concerns of industry on labour shortages.

The number of payroll jobs reported on the HMRC systems is now very close to its pre pandemic level at 28.9 million now compared with 29 million in March 2020. That number is up 576,000 over the past year and 182,000 up in July alone.

The growth in that varies considerably between regions, with holiday areas such as Cornwall and west Wales showing annual rates of growth of around 5%, far above the rates in major cities.

The chancellor welcomed the figures as "promising". Analysts warned that the unemployment figures would rise as the furlough scheme continued to be phased out. But the peak unemployment rate is on course to be significantly lower than had been expected last year.

Source: BBC News