UK job vacancies have hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic as the easing of lockdown measures has led employers to start recruiting.
In the February-to-April period there were 657,000 vacancies, up about 48,400 on the previous quarter.
The unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.8% in the three months to March, down from 4.9% in February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The ONS said there were “early signs of recovery” in the jobs market. However, despite the rise in job vacancies over the past 12 months, the level remains almost 128,000 below its pre-pandemic level in the January-to-March quarter of 2020.
The official figures confirm several reports in recent weeks by recruitment companies that they are seeing a rise in job advertisements, leading to concern among some employers that they could face staff shortages.
The ONS said the number of workers on payrolls had risen by 97,000 between March and April, but was still 772,000 lower than before the pandemic struck.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said the number of employees on payroll “rose strongly in April” as the economy began to reopen, continuing an improvement from its November trough.
But he said: “There remains, however, three-quarters of a million people fewer on the payroll compared with the pre-pandemic peak. “With many businesses reopening, the recent recovery in job vacancies continued into April, especially in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment.”