During the pandemic, 63 per cent of the staff struck off from payrolls were aged under 25, with the total number of employees removed from payroll exceeding half a million people.

According to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there has been a small increase in the number of employees on the payroll in the last three months to February 2021, with this figure rising by 68,000 compared to the previous month.

This marks the third consecutive monthly increase, indicating a sense of optimism when it comes to rates of hiring and post-COVID recovery for the labour market.

Despite this, this does not outweigh the huge number of people who have been struck off from payroll. The ONS data reveals that compared with February 2020, there were 693,000 fewer people in payrolled employment in February 2021. Around half of this number (368,000) can be attributed to employees working in the accommodation and food service activities sector.

Within this statistic, it was employees aged under 25 who were most impacted. ONS found that, of the employees removed from the payroll since the beginning of the pandemic, over three in five workers (63 per cent) were people aged under 25. A further quarter (25 per cent) was made up by employees aged 25-34 years old.

In addition to this, the employment rate in the UK has also dropped. In the three months until January 2021, the percentage of people employed was estimated at 75.0 per cent, 1.5 percentage points lower than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

Along with this, the rate of unemployment also rose in the UK in the three months to January 2021, perhaps reflecting the effect of the most recent lockdown and the restrictions accompanying it. This was placed at 5.0 per cent, 1.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

Commenting on these statistics, REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry viewed these figures optimistically:

These figures offer further evidence that the jobs market has weathered the 2021 lockdown better than feared.

While the total number of hours worked has dropped, the headline employment and unemployment rates have remained relatively stable, and the number of employees on company payrolls continued to rise into February.

The growth in temporary employment shows how important temping is to getting people into work quickly, and helping businesses grow in unpredictable times. The economy is well-placed to bounce back as restrictions are lifted – but many people will need support transitioning into the new roles that emerge. Radical reform of the skills system – including the failed apprenticeship levy – will be vital.

Paul Modley, Global Talent Acquisition Director and Head of Diversity & Inclusion at AMS, a provider of talent outsourcing and advisory services, reflected on what this could mean for the younger generations and how businesses can help:

We’ve known for some time that young people have been extremely hard hit professionally by Covid-19, but these figures really do highlight just how difficult it has been. It’s been understandably tough for employers as budget restrictions and uncertainty gripped global markets, but for those firms with a UK base, this decline in employment and development opportunities for emerging talent will leave many companies playing catch-up with skills development later on.

It is critically important that we invest in the future generation of the workforce as soon as possible, otherwise businesses and markets will be slow to recover and once again reach their full potential. The development of early talent is an important component to developing a sustainable workforce. In fact, we saw this play out after the 2008/9 financial crash, with employers reducing junior talent recruitment, only to be faced with skills shortages just a year later.

Now is the time for employers to begin planning for real recovery – and the emerging generation will have a huge role to play in this. Businesses need to ensure they are investing in the skills development of the future, or we will see a significant shortage in the not-too-distant future.


*These statistics were taken from ONS’s ‘Labour market overview, UK: March 2021′ .