Britain’s jobs market strengthened further last month despite coronavirus and the Government’s Plan B restrictions, official figures show.
The figures also reveal that in the three months to November the unemployment rate fell back almost to where it was pre-Covid, to 4.1 per cent from 4.2 per cent in the previous quarter and close to the 4 per cent level seen in the last pre-pandemic quarter.
The ONS said the number of people employed is now 1.4 per cent, or 409,000, above levels seen before Covid.
The numbers of people claiming work-related benefits such as Universal Credit to top up wages or due to unemployment fell across Lancashire in December.
In the Blackpool North and Cleveleys constituency, there were 3,085 claiming benefits, or 6.3 per cent of the population there, a figure down 1.9 per cent on the same month last year.
Blackpool South had 4,445 claimants, 9.1 per cent of the population, a figure down 3.7 per cent on December 2020, while Chorley had 2,060 claimants, 3.2 per cent of the population, down 1.4 per cent.
Fylde had 1,625 claiming, 3.3 per cent of the population, down 2 per cent, Lancaster and Fleetwood had 2,090, 3.4 per cent of the population, down 1.6 per cent, while Preston had 4,070, 6.2 per cent of the population there, a figure down 1.9 per cent on December 2020.
South Ribble had 1,465 claimants, 2.5 per cent of the population, down 1.3 per cent and Wyre and Preston North had 1,095 claimants, 2.1 per cent of the population, down 1.4 per cent on December 2020.
Wages after taking account of inflation fell for the first time in more than a year, with average pay after inflation, excluding bonuses, down 1 per cent – the first drop since July 2020.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said: “The number of employees on payrolls continued to grow strongly in December, with the total now well above pre-pandemic levels.
“New survey figures show that, in the three months to November, the unemployment rate fell back almost to where it was before Covid-19 hit, and those reporting they’d recently been made redundant fell to their lowest since records began more than a quarter of a century ago.
“However, while job vacancies reached a new high in the last quarter of 2021, they are now growing more slowly than they were last summer.”
The latest data suggested there was little impact on Britain’s buoyant jobs market from the spread of the new Covid variant in December and tightened restrictions.
This came in spite of a sharp drop off in trade for many sectors, particularly the services sector, combined with limited Government support.
Figures also confirmed the end of the furlough scheme in September has not led to the once-feared surge in job losses, with the redundancy rate falling to a record low in the three months to November.
The number of vacancies also surged to a fresh high of 1.25 million in the quarter to December – 128,000 more than the previous three months and 462,000 above the pre-Covid level as firms battled to secure workers.