The latest ONS figures show a strong recovery in the labour market with job vacancies rising by almost half compared to the previous quarter which marks a new record high.

New data published by the Office for National Statistics reveals that strong quarterly growth was seen when it comes to job vacancies, with 10 of the 18 industry sections reaching or equalling record levels of vacancies in May to July 2021.

As such, the number of job vacancies compared to the previous quarter was up by almost half (43.8 per cent).

This meant that the jobs on offer surpass pre-pandemic figures by over a fifth (21.4 per cent), indicating a strong recovery in the labour market now restrictions have been lifted.

This recovery was most prevalently seen amongst industries which were largely impacted by the easing of restrictions.

This included arts, entertainment and recreation which saw a quarterly percentage growth of 267.1 per cent as well as accommodation and food service activities which grew by 163.7 per cent on the quarter.

In addition, larger businesses with over 2,500 employees saw their vacancies surpass their pre-pandemic levels for the first time, meaning businesses of all different size bands have now reached this threshold.

However, the number of employees on payroll has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels although it did see a marginal increase over the last quarter, rising by 182,000.

The data also shows that there has been a quarterly increase in the employment rate of 0.3 percentage points, to 75.1 per cent, and a decrease in the unemployment rate of 0.2 percentage points, to 4.7 per cent.

Economic inactivity has also seen a fall by 0.2 per cent on the previous quarter, falling to 21.1 per cent overall.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, reacted to these figures, noting the staff shortages that businesses are facing:

The robust jobs recovery suggested by business surveys is confirmed by today’s figures, and that is great news. But record vacancy numbers once again emphasise the risk posed by labour shortages in many key sectors.

The number of vacancies is now at an all-time high and is still rising, with employers desperate to hire new staff as the economy recovers. The increase in temporary workers again emphasises the vital role this type of engagement plays in helping firms stay productive when skills are scarce.

These shortages are a long-term issue that pre-dates the pandemic and businesses need to realise that they are not simply going to fade away.

Employers will have to improve workforce planning, invest in skills and improve their offer to candidates if they want to hire. Many are already doing this, acting on the expert advice of recruiters. But they will also need help from government to solve this issue. That means an effective, long-term plan on skills and training, and an immigration system that has the flexibility to meet employers’ needs.

Matt Weston, UK Managing Director of global recruitment firm Robert Half, also identified the need for businesses to do more to attract and retain staff during this time:

The rise in pay rolled employment sits hand in hand with a sharp drop in those using the furlough scheme, indicating continued recovery in the UK jobs market.

While increased employment is good news for the economy, the gap between supply and demand is causing headaches for businesses who are struggling to find talent with the skills they need for recovery and growth.

Businesses must be prepared to go the extra mile to secure the people they need, beyond offering competitive salaries, benefits and the flexible working arrangements that are now expected as standard. Businesses must demonstrate values that mirror candidates’ interests by developing inclusive company culture that fosters loyalty from existing employees and potential new joiners.

*These figures are documented in the ONS’ ‘Labour Market Overview: UK: August 2021’ and ‘Vacancies and Jobs in the UK: August 2021’.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.