Professor Len Shackleton, labour market expert at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, commented on the labour market data published yesterday by the ONS
The latest labour market data again look upbeat, with payroll employment above pre-pandemic levels and unemployment down again.
However the data relate to a period - only a few weeks ago - when we thought vaccination had overcome the worst of the Covid epidemic. The threat from restrictions on economic activity following the Omicron outbreak make the prospect for the next few months decidedly more gloomy, especially as the government is unlikely to be able to support jobs and businesses to the same extent as in previous lockdowns.
It is also worth noting that the figures for September show that, while overall employment was back to pre-pandemic levels, its composition has changed. For example, self-employment was half a million lower than two years previously, while nearly 300,000 more were employed in the public sector.
There are also sectoral and regional differences which complicate the picture, while the headline pay increases conceal considerable variations in the extent to which particular groups of workers have been able to protect themselves against a worrying rise in inflation.
So the latest figures should not lure us into complacency. Difficult times are ahead.
Notes to editors
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