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Job vacancies have hit a record high as the economic recovery continues, according to official figures.

The number of vacancies in the three months to August rose above one million for the first time since records began.

The unemployment rate fell from 4.7% to 4.6% in the three months to July, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Figures also showed employee numbers were back at pre-Covid levels in August.

August payrolls showed another monthly increase of 241,000 to 29.1 million in total.

The ONS deputy statistician, Jonathan Athow, said: “Early estimates from payroll data suggest that in August the total number of employees is around the same level as before the pandemic, though our surveys show well over a million are still on furlough.”

But Mr Athow pointed out that the recovery was not even, with areas such as London and sectors like hospitality and the arts still down.

The ONS also cautioned that young people had been badly affected by job losses.

“The overall employment rate continues to recover, particularly among groups such as young workers who were hard hit at the outset of the pandemic, while unemployment has fallen,” he said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday: “Today’s statistics show that our plan for jobs is working.

“As we continue to recover from the pandemic, our focus remains on creating opportunities and supporting people’s jobs,” he said.

The figures come as the furlough scheme, which was introduced by the government at the start of the pandemic to stop people being laid off, starts to wind down.

In July, employers were required to start paying 10% of salaries – with the government’s contribution falling to 70%.

The government initially paid 80% of the wages of people who couldn’t work, or whose employers could no longer afford to pay them – up to a monthly limit of £2,500.

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