Responding to today’s ONS figures, Jonathan Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

"These statistics continue the positive trends seen in previous releases. Employment increased and unemployment decreased, but both remain shy of their pre-pandemic levels.

“Since March 2020 employers have used furlough to flex the size of their workforce to meet demand at minimal cost. Now that most people are back at work this strategy is no longer available. Recruitment and importantly retention are picking up the slack. Industries with the biggest surge in vacancies are the ones that used furlough the most, including arts and entertainment, and hospitality. 

“Vacancies are a forward-looking indicator due to lead times in recruitment, so we can be confident that employment will continue to increase over the coming months which coincides with the end of furlough. The redundancy rate is back to pre-pandemic levels which is another positive sign that the end of furlough will be relatively painless with minimal job losses. 

“Now is the time for employers to think holistically about getting the workforce they need. This means paying careful attention to retention as well as recruitment strategies. Upskilling existing staff and improving people management will help keep current staff invested and engaged in the organisation.” 

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