Employers added 160,000 people to their payrolls in October as the UK jobs market confounded fears that the end of the furlough scheme would result in a sharp rise in joblessness.
The extra staff took the total number of employees to 29.3 million in October, the Office for National Statistics reported.
The official unemployment rate for July to September – which includes data from before the end of the furlough scheme – fell 0.5 per cent to 4.3 per cent but remains 0.3 percentage points above its pre-pandemic level.
The number of people considered inactive – out of work and not looking for a job – is 0.9 percentage points higher than before the pandemic.
Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “It might take a few months to see the full impact of furlough coming to an end, as people who lost their jobs at the end of September could still be receiving redundancy pay.
“However, October’s early estimate shows the number of people on the payroll rose strongly on the month and stands well above its pre-pandemic level.”
She added: “There is also no sign of an upturn in redundancies and businesses tell us that only a very small proportion of their previously furloughed staff have been laid off. In addition, vacancies again reached a new record high.”
The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.4 per cent between July and September – 1.1 percentage points lower than before the coronavirus pandemic, but 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous quarter (April to June 2021).
The figures will be welcomed by workers but add to problems for employers struggling to find staff amid an ongoing labour shortage.