After a sharp drop last year, there are now over 8 million people working in part time jobs again in the United Kingdom.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that a recovery in the part time jobs market is underway after taking a battering during the pandemic.

The latest ONS figures are for the period covering the three months to the end of October 2021 and there are grounds for cautious optimism in the data.

A series of lockdowns in the UK led to the number of people working part time dropping significantly to just 7.7 million by the end of May this year.

The new ONS research shows a reversal in fortunes for flexible workers, with 8.07 million staff now working part time across the nation.

The trend is helping reduce unemployment figures overall, with the number of job vacancies on offer in the UK now at an all time high.

There was also some much-needed good news for young job seekers in the latest ONS figures, with stats showing that the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds has finally returned to levels not seen since before the COVID-19 outbreak.

The number of young people classed as unemployed reached a peak of almost 15 per cent at the end of September last year, but the latest data reveals that figure to have now dropped to around 11 per cent.

Announcing the news, the head of economic statistics for the ONS, Darren Morgan, said

“With still no sign of the end of the furlough scheme hitting the number of jobs, the total of employees on payroll continued to grow strongly in November. Separately, survey findings show much of the recent growth in employment has been among part-timers, who were particularly hard hit at the start of the pandemic.”

Commenting on the ONS findings, James Reed, the chairman of Reed Employment, said:

“There has been plenty of talk from doomsayers that the Omicron variant will plunge us back into economic despair, but the outlook appears much more optimistic now compared with the first Covid wave we faced in March 2020. It’s currently the best time in 50 years to look for a new job.”

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, welcomed the ONS figures, saying:

“The jobs outlook remains strong thanks to our £400 billion economic support package, Plan for Jobs and fantastic vaccine programme. To keep safeguarding our economic recovery and the lives and livelihoods of the British people, I am now calling on everyone to keep playing their part and get boosted now.”

However, other experts in the industry did strike a note of caution over what effects the new variant might have on the jobs market.

Rob Clarry, an economist at PwC UK, saying: “We expect it to hit consumer demand for contact-intensive sectors, such as food and hospitality, over the near term. This could reduce demand for labour in these sectors over the coming months.”