PwC comments on the latest labour market data

Jing Teow, senior economist at PwC, comments on today's labour market data:

"The latest data shows that the UK labour market remained resilient in the three months to March, with record numbers of people in employment, driven by older workers and more women in full-time work. In addition, while the unemployment rate has seen a slight uptick, it is still low by historical standards.

"However, social distancing measures implemented in late March to stop the spread of COVID-19 had already begun to exert a drag on labour markets. Job vacancies saw the largest quarterly fall on record in the three months to April.

"The data also shows that while the employment rate is at a record high, average actual hours worked fell in March, especially in the last two weeks when lockdown measures were in place. This suggests that employers took early steps by reducing staff hours to cut wage costs without making workers redundant. This trend is likely to continue in the second quarter given the high level of take-up by businesses of the Coronavirus Job retention Scheme (JRS). 

"Recent business surveys on the fall in business sales and investment in Q2 suggests that a rise in unemployment is probably inevitable. However, the more that businesses are able to maintain links with their employees, the faster labour markets will be able to bounce back from the crisis, thus preventing more serious scarring effects and a bigger rise in both short- and long-term unemployment."

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