"The latest ONS figures show an estimated unemployment rate of 4.9% between December 2020 and February 2021, 0.9% higher than a year earlier but 0.1% lower than the previous quarter. The slight improvement on the figures has come at a time when severe restrictions were in place, demonstrating a more robust employment market. As Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, states 'The latest figures suggest that the job market has been broadly stable in recent months after the major shock of last spring.'
"The redundancy rate in the three months to February 2021 was estimated at 7.3 people per thousand employees, a welcome improvement on the previous quarter which recorded 11 people per thousand employees. Many employers are still taking advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with reports that five million people are employed, but still on furlough.
"There are some further positive signs, with the ONS reporting a marked rise in job vacancies in March 2021, coinciding with the lifting of restrictions. With the vaccination programme on target and producing good levels of protection against COVID-19 and businesses working diligently to re-open, we can expect to see the labour market figures remain steady and continue to improve in the short to medium term. The continued success of the vaccination programme will prove critical for the UK job market in advance of the furlough scheme expiring in September. Although ONS describes the labour market as "subdued", these figures give cause to be cautiously optimistic and there is certainly an element of anticipation as we watch the government's four-point plan unfold."