More job openings than unemployed people for the first time in 50 years

Latest labour market figures released by ONS on 17 May 2022.

With 1.3 million vacancies and a 3.7% unemployment rate at the end of March, “our labour market seems to be recovering well with payroll numbers growing once again and vacancies remaining strong” says Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP .

ONS remains reserved and states that the situation shows a “mixed picture”, as the food and fuel costs have hit a 7% rise in March and are still growing, which makes wages fail in keeping up with them – only up by 4.2%.

According to BBC, Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation think tank at Lancaster University, said: “Despite employment continuing to rise, today’s figures underline the challenges facing workers who are seeing inflation eat away at their living standards.” His statement is backed up by Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, who declared that “Total employment, while up on the quarter, remains below its pre-pandemic level. Since the start of the pandemic, around half a million more people have completely disengaged from the labour market”.

Responding to the latest ONS figures, Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute, said:

“Real wages excluding bonuses saw their biggest monthly fall since 2013. This cost of living crisis is only going to intensify this year, making it vital that the Government does more to help people, particularly those on the lowest incomes. The obvious way to do this is to raise benefits, including Universal Credit, to match the rise in prices.

Below the surface, the labour market is less buoyant than it appears. For the first time since records began, there are now fewer unemployed people than vacancies and employers are finding it tough to recruit. However, employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels driven by the continuing rise of older people leaving the workforce. Employers and the Government need to act swiftly to encourage people back into the labour market.”

Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute of Employment Studies calls for action to boost labour supply, growth and incomes.

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ERSA welcomes latest labour market statistics


ERSA welcomes the final set of labour market statistics for the year, with unemployment down by over 100,000 and with the rate at 4.8%. Employment did however fall overall by 6,000 this quarter and economic inactivity rose by 76,000. More positively, female employment was up 43,000 this quarter and 229,000 on the year.

Sam Windett, ERSA’s Head of Policy and Communications, said:

“Today’s government statistics once again highlight a record breaking year in which unemployment has fallen by over 100,000 and there is now 31.8 million people in work. The Work Programme alone has helped over 500,000 people into sustained employment since it began, which has helped to change lives, communities and businesses across the UK.

“Today’s figures do however also signify a note of caution. The fall in employment by 6,000 over the last quarter underlines that we face increasing uncertainty in the labour market. The Government must therefore ensure that employment support providers are in a position to react appropriately to any potential downturn, while also continuing to invest in improving productivity.”