Revealed: The region where unemployment is recovering slowest after COVID

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Workers pack away chairs outside a bar in Soho, London, ahead of the 10pm curfew pubs and restaurants are subject to in order to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England.
London has struggled to recover as quickly as other regions of the UK. (PA)

Only London and Scotland have lower levels of employment than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rest of the UK recovering quickly, a report has claimed.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday the capital had the highest unemployment rate in the UK at 5.8%.

The figures only go to the end of September so include the estimated 1 million people who were still on furlough at the time.

There were warnings when furlough ended that there would be forced mass redundancies because many firms, mostly in the travel industry, were still not operating at their pre-pandemic levels.

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Many other areas of the UK are recovering strongly: the lowest unemployment rate was in the South West at 3.4% and the biggest change was in the North East, which saw a decrease of 1.3% in a year. The East of England has a record 3.14 million people in employment.

For the 12 months ending June 2021, the average weekly hours worked varied between London, with 31.9 hours worked, and the North East, with 29.3 hours worked.

All regions saw an increase in the average weekly hours worked compared with the same period last year, except for Northern Ireland.

(Office for National Statistics)
(Office for National Statistics)

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The ONS said the number of payrolled workers rose by 207,000 between August and September to a record 29.2 million.

This was 122,000 higher than levels seen before the pandemic struck in February 2020.

The data also showed another record leap in job vacancies, estimated to be up by nearly 1.2 million in September.

Academics and local leaders have previously warned that London may struggle to recover as quickly from the pandemic.

Paul Scully, the minister for London, said last week that while the capital would normally be the first area in the UK to bounce back after a recession, this time it was likely to be the last.

"London tends to bounce back quickest after recessions," he said. "This time, it’s going to be the last to bounce back; it’s three times the size of the next European city."

The centre of London has been significantly been impacted by the shutting down of the West End and the mass exodus of workers, many of whom have yet to return to the office.

Britain’s jobs market rebound has sparked speculation that the Bank of England may raise interest rates faster than expected as it looks to cool soaring inflation, with fewer unemployment fears to hold it back.

Wages also enjoyed another steep rise, with average weekly earnings up 7.2% with bonuses or 6% without bonuses in the three months to August.

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