The latest ONS data continue to paint a picture of stability. The UK labour market was treading water in Q1 – showing resilience to lockdown but still heavily reliant on the furlough scheme protecting millions of jobs. Unemployment dipped to 4.9% in the three months to February, but could jump once the scheme ends in the autumn. 

In the meantime, the reopening of the economy is driving a pick-up in vacancies. ONS data showed that vacancies rose 16% in March, though they remained 18% below the pre-pandemic February 2020 level. It remains to be seen if the recent reopening and pick-up in online job postings in March and April help bring unemployment and inactivity down more. 

The pandemic’s toll on the young continues to be laid bare. Of the 813,000 decline in payroll employment versus a year ago, four-fifths of these jobs have been lost by the under 35s. While reopening of sectors like retail, hospitality and leisure is important for this cohort, targeted support schemes will also be key to limiting the longer-term scarring of prospects for those who still struggle to find work.