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Just one in ten furloughed workers is looking urgently for a job

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Only 11% of workers who are on furlough or not working are urgently seeking a job, even as the Job Retention Scheme is due to end in just over a month’s time, according to new research.

The labour market has rebounded strongly since the end of lockdown, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.7%2 and job postings surging past pre-pandemic levels.

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At the same time, employers across a range of sectors are struggling to fill vacancies.

The research suggests a lack of urgency among jobseekers to find a new role, even if they are unemployed or still on furlough, may be contributing to these challenges.

Overall, just 7% of all workers surveyed, including those working full or part-time, said they were urgently seeking a new role, rising to 11% among those on furlough or unemployed.

In total, two-fifths of those still on furlough are not searching for a new job, along with over half (56%) of those not currently in work.

Among those on furlough and not searching for work, 71% said they weren’t looking because they expected to return to their pre-pandemic job. Nearly two million workers were still on furlough as of the end of June, with the scheme due to end at the end of September3.

Meanwhile, 12% of those on furlough indicated they were not comfortable returning to in-person work due to COVID-19, while 9% believed there was no work available nearby, and 6% said they had caring responsibilities.

Even among those who are currently unemployed and actively searching for work, many are being choosier about the roles they apply for because they have some financial security. Around 30% of unemployed people who are not urgently looking for work said they had a financial cushion sufficient for some time.

Nearly a fifth of people without a job said they could manage because their spouse or partner was still employed. Meanwhile, 15% said they were not urgently looking for work due to COVID-19 fears. Another 14% said they could get by on their benefits, while 13% indicated their search wasn’t pressing because they had caring responsibilities.

A third of all workers said they would not be looking for a job until more opportunities became available. Almost a fifth said they would like to start a new job after taking holiday or time off, while 10% reported they would like to wait until the new school year starts.

Jack Kennedy, UK economist at the global job site, Indeed, who commissioned the research, comments: “Many employers are desperate for staff, but a significant portion of the workforce appear surprisingly relaxed about finding work, preferring to wait for more job opportunities to emerge.

“Even with the end of the furlough scheme looming, most are feeling optimistic about returning to their workplace and so are in no rush to find a new job. But with almost two million people still on the furlough job retention scheme, some may soon learn they will not be going back and will therefore need to start actively searching.

“The financial cushions enjoyed by some unemployed workers will also eventually erode, and will create a greater sense of urgency among those currently out of work but still happy to sit on the sidelines.

“For now, amid a backdrop of robust labour demand and a strong sellers’ market, most people seem to feel they can be choosy about their next job move.”

Business Matters Magazine

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