Employment Rate Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

The most recent employment figures in the UK reveal that the proportion of Brits in jobs is still below the levels seen before the onset of coronavirus.

According to the latest Labour Force Survey, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for January to March 2022, the UK employment rate had increased by 0.1 percentage points during the three-month period.

Despite the rate of people aged 16 to 64 years in jobs reaching 75.7 per cent, this is still lower than the record-breaking figures experienced in early 2020. Between December 2019 and February 2020, this level was 76.6 per cent, making it the highest figure since records began.

While the percentage of employed people remains lower than this peak, the latest statistics show the employment rate is increasing. At the same time, the unemployment rate is declining, having fallen by 0.3 percentage points over the quarter.

As the unemployment rate had fallen to 3.7 per cent between January and March this year, this was below pre-pandemic levels, when the level was 3.7 per cent.

“For the first time since records began, there are fewer unemployed people than job vacancies,” a spokesperson for the ONS revealed.

At the same time, the number of jobs available between February and April 2022 reached 1,295,000, growing by 33,700 over the three months.

What’s more, the latest figures represent a nearly half million increase since before the pandemic took hold in 2020.

This presents good opportunities for those who have been pursuing freelance jobs since then, as high numbers of vacancies suggest employers are increasingly looking for people to fill positions on a temporary or ad-hoc basis.

According to Harvard Business Review, more companies are considering using freelancers instead of full-time staff on their payroll, as they have become more familiar with remote working over the last two years.

It referenced surveys by Ozimek, which showed: “More than half of hiring managers indicated that remote working has opened up their ability or willingness to utilise remote freelancers, both during the pandemic and going forward.”

Upwork studies also found that 53 per cent of respondents made more use of freelancers working remotely during the pandemic than before lockdowns, while just six per cent stated they had hired fewer freelancers.

In addition to this, nearly half (47 per cent) stated they intended to make more use of freelancers over the next couple of years, compared with just 11 per cent who would not.

The move towards hiring more freelancers has been made easier by an evolving mindset towards flexible arrangements, better investment in virtual communications, and the ability to better define tasks, provide company information and detail certain specifications through remote working tools, Harvard Business Review acknowledged.

Although the number of pay-rolled employees in the UK has actually increased by more than half a million (530,000) since the beginning of the pandemic, there has clearly also been a move to hiring freelance workers, as a way to lower staffing costs and adopt a more flexible approach to completing short-term projects. 

Staff considering going freelance should consult an accountant for sole traders in Manchester to learn more about how to keep their books before taking the big step into self-employment.