© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Adverts are seen in the window of a job agency in London, Britain October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
By David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – British businesses reported that the proportion of staff on furlough fell to 5% in the second half of June, its lowest since the job support programme started last year, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.
Britain’s economy has recovered rapidly in recent months after a record slump in 2020, but some analysts are concerned that a renewed surge in coronavirus cases to their highest since January could dampen growth.
The government has said it will go ahead with lifting most remaining COVID-19 restrictions on public events and social distancing in pubs and restaurants on July 19, after a four-week delay to allow more people to receive a vaccination.
The drop in the proportion of workers on furlough will reassure finance minister Rishi Sunak, who began phasing out the government furlough support at the start of this month, and will remove it all by the end of September.
The number of online job adverts as of July 2 was 35% higher than its level in February 2020 and up 4% on the previous week, according to figures from recruiter Adzuna for the ONS.
Overnight, Britain’s Recruitment and Employment Confederation said businesses were hiring staff at the fastest rate since it started collecting records in the late 1990s.
But the economy as a whole is not expected to regain its pre-crisis size until the end of this year and spending remains below pre-pandemic levels and a peak earlier this year.
Weekly data provided by the Bank of England showed that consumer spending on credit and debit cards rose by 3 percentage points to 96% of its level in February 2020 in the week to July 1, but was below its level a month earlier.
Spending on socialising rose to 84% of its pre-pandemic level from 80% the week before, the weakest of the four main categories in the data.
Sunak told reporters on Thursday that he hoped England’s success in the Euro 2020 soccer tournament would boost consumer confidence and provide a knock-on impact for growth.