The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the UK jobs market appeared to be more resilient as job vacancies hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The further easing of lockdown measures meant more employers could again recruit, which resulted in 657,000 job vacancies in February to April, up about 48,400 on the previous quarter.
The unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.8% in the three months to March, down from 4.9% in February.
However, despite the rise in job vacancies over the past 12 months, the level remains almost 128,000 below its pre-pandemic level in the January-to-March quarter of 2020.
The official figures confirm several reports in recent weeks by recruitment companies that they are seeing a rise in job advertisements, leading to concern among some employers that they could face staff shortages.
The ONS said the number of workers on payrolls had risen by 97,000 between March and April but was still 772,000 lower than before the pandemic struck.
BCC Head of Economics, Suren Thiru, said: “The decline in the unemployment rate and the rise in payroll employment is further confirmation that the UK jobs market is now more resilient to the ongoing restrictions.
“Continued government support and the easing of restrictions as the UK moved to step two of the Government’s roadmap helped drive higher payroll employment in April.
“The rise in the number of job vacancies points to an encouraging upturn in demand for labour amid the gradual reopening of the economy and the strong vaccine rollout.
“UK unemployment remains on track to peak at a much lower level than in recent recessions. However, the squeeze on business cash flow from any marked delay to the planned full reopening of the economy may trigger renewed job losses, particularly when furlough becomes less generous over the summer.
“The economic scarring caused by coronavirus may drive a two-track jobs market recovery, with strong demand for labour in sectors where activity rebounds quickly, but with young people now entering the workforce and those whose lost their job during the pandemic at particular risk of longer-term unemployment.”
“More interventions are likely to be needed to support the UK jobs market, including extending the kickstart scheme help protect young people from the risk of displacement from labour market.”