© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers walk to work during the morning rush hour in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London, Britain, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) -The number of employees on British company payrolls rose by 182,000 in July from June, moving closer to their pre-pandemic level as the economy recovers from its coronavirus lockdowns, tax data showed on Tuesday.
The Office for National Statistics said 28.9 million people were now on company payrolls, 201,000 shy of their level before the COVID-19 pandemic swept Britain in March 2020,
The headline unemployment rate for the three months to June fell to 4.7%. Economists polled by Reuters had mostly expected the unemployment rate to hold at 4.8%.
Britain’s labour market has been propped up by finance minister Rishi Sunak’s job subsidies which paid the wages on 8.9 million jobs at its peak in May 2020, during the first COVID-19 lockdown, falling to 1.9 million jobs at the end of June 2021.
“I know there could still be bumps in the road but the data is promising,” Sunak said. “There are now more employees on payrolls than at any point since March 2020 and the number of people on furlough is the lowest since the scheme launched.”
The scheme is being phased out by the end of September which could push job losses back up.
But earlier this month the Bank of England said the unemployment rate had probably peaked already and it no longer expected a jump after the expiry of the furlough scheme.
Vacancies in the three months to July hit a record high of 953,000, up by 168,000 on their pre-pandemic level, the ONS said. Many employers have said they are struggling to find staff as the economy emerges from its lockdowns.
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