• Brits are working again, as new data shows the number of employees has returned to pre-pandemic levels
  • But the travel industry is bracing for a wave of redundancies once furlough support ends
  • JD Sports’ US expansion has paid off, as demand for sports fashion booms

UK labour market regains pre-pandemic strength

The UK jobs market is booming, but will the impending end to furlough temper its expansion?

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed another 241,000 employees were added to UK payrolls in August, taking the total number of people in work to 29.1m – a level last recorded in February 2020. Meanwhile the number of job vacancies during the three months to August reached 1.03m, breaching the 1m mark for the first time and around a quarter of a million higher than the number of vacancies between January and March 2020.

For those who have been holidaying in the UK over the summer and noticed the number of job ads in restaurant windows, it will come as little surprise that the sector which saw the biggest rise in vacancies was accommodation and food service. Vacancies here rose by 75 per cent, although the increase may drop as seasonal factors fall away. 

Those in work are still enjoying strong pay growth. Average pay was up 8.3 per cent in May to July, although the market is being distorted by a decline in low-paying jobs and sharp wage inflation in sectors where there are severe shortages of workers, such as haulage.

But the big question remains: what effect will the ending of furlough support later this month have on the jobs market? The ONS reported that more than 1m people were still being supported by the furlough scheme at the end of August. GD

Read more: 

Is there a national labour shortage?

What does the lorry driver shortage mean for supermarket earnings?

Save travel industry by ending harsh rules, says ABTA

When the government does withdraw coronavirus job support, travel companies are likely to be hit harder than most. The UK’s leading travel agency body warned today that the industry faces a wave of redundancies when the furlough scheme ends later this month.

The Association of British Travel Agents argued the government should kill its current traffic light system, maintaining only a red list for the highest risk destinations. It also called for the end of expensive PCR testing for vaccinated travellers returning from “lower-risk countries”. New foreign holiday bookings this summer were down 83 per cent on 2019, ABTA said, while 58 per cent of holidays booked for July and August had to be postponed or cancelled. 

The government is reportedly considering changing testing requirements, and the traffic light system could end within weeks. But the industry is demanding action soon. On Monday, Heathrow Airport said that its August traffic figures were down 71 per cent compared to 2019, adding it had gone from being Europe’s busiest airport to only the 10th busiest. AH 

Further reading: 

EasyJet

LONDON (AP) — The number of people on payroll in the U.K. has soared back to levels last seen before the coronavirus pandemic struck a year and a half ago, official figures showed Tuesday in the latest clear signal that the lifting of lockdown restrictions has prompted businesses to ramp up hiring.

The Office for National Statistics said that payroll numbers rose by 241,000 between July and August to 29.1 million. The total is now 1,000 higher than it was the month before the pandemic struck in March 2020.

The statistics agency also said that vacancy numbers increased by 249,000 in the three months to August to more than 1 million for the first time since records began in 2001 amid labor shortages in industries such as accommodation and food services that are partly related to the pandemic but also because of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

It also found that the the overall rate of unemployment dropped by 0.3 percentage point in July to 4.6% while the employment rate ticked up by 0.5 percentage point to 75.2%.

Overall, the figures point to the positive impact of the lifting of restrictions over the past few months and the rebound in confidence following the rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines across the U.K.

National statistician Jonathan Athow cautioned that the jobs recovery isn’t even and that “in hard-hit areas such as London, and sectors such as hospitality and arts and leisure, the numbers of workers remain well down on pre-pandemic levels.”

There’s also unease as to what will happen in the labor market over the coming months as the government’s salary support program, which has kept a lid on unemployment during the pandemic, comes to an end.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is set to end at the end of September, saw the government pay 80% of the salaries of those workers unable to work because of lockdown measures. The program helped support around 12 million people at its height. But the number has been falling as lockdown restrictions were lifted and now stands at around 1.6 million.

“With the furlough scheme ending in little over two weeks’ time, we should expect a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn, particularly among furloughed staff that aren’t able to return to their previous jobs,” said Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank.

Unions are urging the government to come up with new support, particularly for sectors like aviation which are still struggling in the face of restrictions.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Government briefings indicate that the current “traffic light” system that restricts travel to the UK is likely to be dismantled soon.

The UK has by far the highest infection rates for any major country in Europe, yet it also imposes the strictest rules on arrivals.

A total of 62 nations and territories are on the UK”s “red list,” representing a total population of well over one billion people.

Appearing on the red list is effectively a travel ban, with arrivals from those countries required to go into 11 nights of hotel quarantine once in the UK – at a cost, for a solo traveller, of £2,285.

So which countries might leave the club – and which nations should join? Tim White, the Covid data analyst who tweets as @TWMCLtd, has given his expertise to The Independent.

He has trawled through the genomic sequencing records held by Gisaid, the worldwide database, with a focus on variants of concern.

Staying on red

Fourteen nations, says Mr White, are likely to remain on red: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, French Guiana, Montenegro, Philippines, Seychelles, Suriname, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia.

Mr White offered this commentary: “Brazil uploaded many hundreds of samples, but 41 per cent were Gamma.

“Chile reported 37 per cent of its sequenced positive cases were Gamma, while almost 10 per cent were Lambda and another 16 per cent were the most recent variant, Mu.

“Colombia will be kept red because of lack of quality data.

“Costa Rica uploaded only four samples, two of which were variants.

“Suriname and French Guiana are likely to stay red with Gamma variant circulating widely.

But, he added: “Most scientists believe most of the variants circulating in South America are not more likely to evade vaccines so there is an argument to allow them all off red.”

Elsewhere in the world, he said: “Montenegro is Europe’s most infected country.

“The Philippines registered an all-time record recently

“Seychelles has still quite high rates.

“Tanzania has never bothered reporting any samples to the collective, so it is almost certain to stay on red, more so considering the government’s attitude to the virus has been to pretty much deny its existence and punish people for posting things about it.

“Thailand submitted very little data. Given the fear over mutant strains and Beta in particular, I think Thailand will stay red until it can do more genomic sequencing.

“Tunisia had awful figures for number of travellers arriving into UK infected with Covid-19.”

Added to red

Tim White picked another 10 nations not currently on the red list which, he said, have high case rates or were “fibbing about figures”, meaning they should probably be added to the red list.

These were Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Fiji, Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Russia and Venezuela.

All of these are currently amber, except Grenada – currently on the “low-risk” green list.

Mr White speculates that Iran, Iraq and Russia have avoided the red list up to now “for political

Employers scrambling to hire staff amid widespread labour shortages after lockdown helped to return the number of workers on company payrolls to pre-pandemic levels in August, official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics said the number of payroll employees increased by 241,000 to 29.1 million in August, lifting employment in all regions of the UK to pre-Covid levels except in London, Scotland and south-east England.

It came as the number of job vacancies soared to more than 1m in August for the first time since official records began in 2001, rising by 35% in the space of three months across all sectors of the British economy.

Reflecting difficulty hiring staff after lockdown for a wide range of businesses across Britain, the ONS said the largest increase was in accommodation and food services – the sector which includes hotels, pubs and restaurants – with a 75% increase over the past three months.

UK payroll employees chart

Business leaders have warned that shortages of workers and raw materials will hold back Britain’s economic recovery from the pandemic, with lobby groups calling for looser post-Brexit migration rules to enable firms to hire more staff from the EU.

The number of EU nationals working in Britain has dropped during the pandemic as many workers returned to their home countries, while ongoing concerns around Covid, pandemic restrictions, and post-Brexit migration rules have limited their return.

Despite the rise in the number of payrolled employees in August, which is collected from HMRC data, the ONS said employment in the UK still remained below pre-Covid levels in official data gathered in its labour force survey in the three months to July.

Unemployment was estimated at 4.6%, a drop of 0.3 percentage points on the previous quarter but still 0.6 percentage points higher than before the pandemic struck.

UK job vacancies chart

Employment, which measures the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work, rose steadily to 75.2% in the three months to the end of July, but remains 1.3 percentage points lower than pre-Covid levels.

The official headline rates differ from the HMRC payroll numbers because they are based on surveys rather than company filings and cover a three-month period. The HMRC figures also exclude self-employment and may double count some workers who have more than one job.

About 1.6m jobs were still furloughed at the end of July, according to the latest data published by HMRC last week, with the highest numbers in sectors of the economy where pandemic restrictions are toughest. More than half of the total workforce in air passenger transport remains on furlough, while there are also large numbers in the arts and leisure industries.

Nye Cominetti, the senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said self-employment remains 700,000 down on pre-Covid levels, adding that as many as 1 million employees could still be on furlough when the scheme closes at the end of this month.

“There is still ground to make up in the labour market. With the furlough scheme ending

Job vacancies in Britain climbed to a record in August, rising above 1 million for the first time, as the labor market continued its uneven recovery, according to data released Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics.

As Britain emerged from lockdowns the demand for workers has soared. Every sector is seeking more workers, with restaurants, bars, hotels and other accommodation and food businesses trying to hire the most over the summer.

It has helped push the unemployment rate down, to 4.6 percent, and has shrunk the number of people who are out of the work force.

Nearly a quarter of a million people were added to company payrolls in August, returning this part of the labor market (which doesn’t include the self-employed) to its prepandemic size, the statistics office said. But not every region had fully recovered. The number of employees was still down in London, in southeast England and in Scotland. And some of the workers on payroll were still receiving wage subsidies from the government’s furlough program.

The soaring vacancy rate has highlighted mismatches in the labor market. Even as people return to work, lots of businesses report they are struggling to hire. The staff they are looking for have either moved into different industries or left the country. And job seekers don’t have the right training or experience. Growth in the manufacturing sector has been hampered by the challenge of filling open positions. And businesses across Britain are running low on supplies because there are too few truck drivers.

Analysts predict that some of the gains in the labor market will be reversed when the furlough program ends this month, and employers can no longer rely on the government to top up staff wages up to 80 percent for the hours they don’t work. At the end of July, there were 484,000 employers with 1.6 million workers still on furlough. Layoffs are expected; a group representing the travel sector said more than two-thirds of businesses with staff on furlough expect to cut jobs when the program ends.

“With the furlough scheme ending in little over two weeks’ time, we should expect a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn, particularly among furloughed staff that aren’t able to return to their previous jobs,” Nye Cominetti, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, a think tank studying living standards, wrote in a note.

Samuel Tombs, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the end of the furlough program would increase unemployment and underemployment, as people can’t find as much work as they would like, despite the high number of vacancies.

“About 60 percent of staff on furlough are attached to small businesses employing fewer than 20 people, who are unlikely to have the financial strength to re-employ them for all their pre-Covid hours,” he wrote in a note to clients. Businesses with high vacancies are different from the ones using the furlough program, so people will need to retrain before they return to employment, he added, predicting that the unemployment

Sandals Resorts International (SRI) has announced the introduction of Sandals Holiday Assurance.

The new initiative offers the guarantee of a free replacement stay should a holiday be impacted by Covid-19 while on resort.

It also provides guests with complimentary on resort Covid-19 testing.

Clients who have holidays booked before December, including those made through third parties, can rest assured that if they should test positive for Covid-19 whilst in resort and are required to quarantine, they will be provided with an accommodation credit voucher for the value of their room cost.

This can be redeemed against a replacement stay within 12-months of the issue date.

Agents can book their clients’ holidays via Unique Caribbean Holidays (the UK tour operator for Sandals and Beaches Resorts) with complete confidence, knowing that their holiday is fully assured with Sandals Resorts.

Certain restrictions, terms and conditions do, however, apply.

According to SRI executive chairman, Adam Stewart, the new Sandals Holiday Assurance programme is designed to take the worry out of travel, giving guests certainty that their investment in an all-inclusive luxury holiday is safeguarded from interruptions outside of their control.

“We want to put the fun and joy of planning and anticipating a great holiday back into travel. While we recognise the real concerns that may weigh on our guests’ minds, we’re taking extraordinary measures to remove worry from the equation, so travellers’ can delight in the entire travel journey – from booking to departure,” said Stewart.

In addition, UK guests travelling to any Sandals or Beaches Resort will benefit from complimentary on-resort Covid-19 PCR or antigen testing, based on the requirements of the local governments in the islands where Sandals and Beaches Resorts operate.

This also includes the required antigen test for British guests to return into the UK, which is carried out at all Sandals and Beaches resorts within 72 hours prior to guests’ departure.

Results are usually received from within 24-hours.

More Information

Sandals Resorts International is the parent company of the leading luxury all-inclusive resort brands Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts.

Sandals is recognised as the World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company by voters at the World Travel Awards.

The Cook Islands will not reopen travel to New Zealand until there has been no community transmission of Covid-19 for 14 days and travellers over 12 have been fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Mark Brown says.

Cook Islands borders have been closed to New Zealand for more than three weeks since the first Delta case was first reported on August 16 in Auckland.

The country’s government closed off travel immediately, only allowing Kiwis in the Cook Islands to return.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says his government is doing everything possible to protect the health of Cook Islanders and the country’s economy.

Ryan Anderson/Stuff

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says his government is doing everything possible to protect the health of Cook Islanders and the country’s economy.

Brown said the decision by his Cabinet might be disappointing to many, but those people now had at least some indication of when tourism may resume.

READ MORE:
* Cook Islands tourism focus turns to Australia
* Cook Islands ready to host Kiwi tourists from May 1, says Prime Minister Mark Brown
* Fears Cook Islands will not be able to host as many visitors if two-way bubble doesn’t inflate soon

He said that at some point in the future, all countries would have to live with Covid-19. However, that time wasn’t now for Cook Islanders, as they closely monitor New Zealand’s Delta outbreak and vaccination programme.

Torika Tokalau/Stuff

Cook Islands hotel owner Richard Vinsen says the past 15 months have been difficult but he’s hopeful the New Zealand travel bubble will revive the country’s fortunes.

“As one of the few countries in the world that has managed to keep Covid-19 out, we do not want to do anything to jeopardise the safety of our people,” Brown said.

“While we acknowledge that at some point in the future all countries will need to learn to live with Covid-19, that time has not yet come.

“We do not want an outbreak here. The impact on our health resources as well as our economy would be devastating.”

Brown said his government was doing everything possible to protect the health and wellbeing of Cook Islanders as well as the country’s economy.

The Cook Islands closed its borders to New Zealand as soon as a community case was identified in Auckland in August.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

The Cook Islands closed its borders to New Zealand as soon as a community case was identified in Auckland in August.

More than 300 Cook Islanders stranded in New Zealand would have to wait until at least next Tuesday to find out if they could return home.

Brown said his government was looking at repatriation flights from Christchurch for those outside of Auckland in level 2 areas, but no dates had been set yet.

Those travellers would need to provide a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure, complete a Cook Islands managed return application form and undergo a seven-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival into Rarotonga.

Brown said because of the risk of Covid-19, Cook Islanders in Auckland had to wait for a drop to level 2 or below before being allowed to catch a flight home.

His Cabinet would continue to review new information and advice from its health authorities when vaccination numbers increase in

“The court imposed the penalties after finding Allianz and AWP engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct when selling travel insurance by failing to correctly state how premiums were calculated and by allowing insurance to be sold to ineligible customers,” said the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in a press release. (Photo: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg)

On Sep. 7, an Australian court fined two units of German insurer Allianz SE for A$1.5 million (US$1.12 million) for selling travel insurance to ineligible customers and not disclosing how premiums were calculated, Reuters reported.

The fine concludes a nearly year-long civil lawsuit that was filed on Sep. 30, 2020, by Australia’s corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The lawsuit alleged that two of Allianz’s units, Allianz Australia and AWP Australia, engaged in misleading and deceptive practices when selling travel insurance by not providing consumers with correct information on how premiums were calculated and failing to prevent the sale of travel insurance on Expedia to consumers illegible to make claims under policies.

According to the ASIC, Allianz’s travel insurance policies sold through Expedia were sold upon the purchase of travel, such as a flight, and presented as “add-on insurance” where consumers could add travel insurance to their travel product purchase.

The ASIC also claimed the Allianz units misused a quote from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about the importance of purchasing travel insurance.

“ASIC is committed to improving the outcomes for Australian consumers who purchase insurance. The insurance industry needs to be transparent and accurate when selling and promoting their products,” said ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court in a release, adding: “The community expects that the insurance industry will promote and sell products in a transparent way. People take out travel insurance for peace of mind and to protect their families. The value of an insurance policy is in the promise — that a consumer can feel confident and secure that they will be looked after if something goes wrong. ASIC remains committed to ensuring that consumers’ experience matches that expectation.”

In October 2020, ASIC secured A$10 million (US$7.37 million) from Allianz to compensate approximately 31,500 consumers who were missold travel insurance through Allianz’s website or through distributions patterns, such as Expedia.

The courts considered the early remediation efforts from Allianz when determining its fine, the ASIC said.

Related: 

Dr Anthony Fauci has backed the idea of banning unvaccinated people from air travel in the US.

“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, you should be vaccinated,” Dr Fauci, the director of the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Skimm This podcast, according to The Hill. The podcast was taped last week and is set to be released on Thursday.

The support from Dr Fauci, who earlier led the Covid-19 task force, comes days after Democrat representative Don Beyer introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to make a proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours from travel a requirement to board an airline or a train.

Mr Beyer, the representative from Virginia, introduced The Safe Travel Act in the House on Thursday.

“Requiring airport and Amtrak travellers and employees to provide a proof of Covid vaccine or negative test is just common sense,” Mr Beyer said on his bill. “These are easy steps we can take to make travel safer, as companies like United have already demonstrated with responsible policy changes.”

Earlier in August another Democrat, New York representative Ritchie Torres, also pushed a bill to require Americans to get immunised or tested before travelling. In his letter to the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, Mr Torres said such a requirement was “common sense”.

On Friday, the White House refused to rule out the introduction of such a policy. “I think we have a very strong track record that shows we’re pulling available levers to acquire vaccinations and we’re not taking any measures off the table,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said.

So far, 54 per cent of Americans have been fully vaccinated, while 63 per cent have received at least one dose, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Over 35 per cent, or nearly 80 million, Americans are unvaccinated.

President Joe Biden said last week that vaccine hesitancy, which remains a major hurdle for the US, has cost the country a great deal. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Mr Biden said. “And your refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing.”

KUALA LUMPUR, 14 SEPTEMBER 2021 – The Langkawi travel bubble which has been well-received by Malaysians since its announcement last week will be a catalyst towards the revival of tourism and the AirAsia Group intends to play a strong role in further solidifying the return of travel.

As the transformation of AirAsia into a digital travel and lifestyle group is now complete, travellers can now book their ride to the airport and within Langkawi island, confirm their flights and accommodation to Langkawi, as well as complete their duty-free shopping all within one platform – the airasia Super App, at unbeatable value and prices.

For a start, AirAsia Malaysia (flight code AK) will be resuming its flights to and from Langkawi with 90 weekly flights departing from Kuala Lumpur (63x weekly), Penang (14x weekly), Johor Bahru (7x weekly), Ipoh (3x weekly) and Kota Bharu (3x weekly). More routes will be added and frequencies increased as the travel demand grows in tandem with the reopening of more leisure destinations in the near future.

Guests can look forward to an improved, more exciting travel experience as the airasia Super App is collaborating with the Langkawi Development Authority to offer a new digitized and contactless duty-free shopping experience which will see an island-wide and same-day delivery across Langkawi hotels by the end of this month. Soon there will also be a full spectrum of fulfilment from inflight seat delivery, airport pickup apart from hotel and home delivery with 13 Asean retailers on board with airasia’s duty free offerings.

The airasia Super App which now offers e-hailing with the recent launch of airasia ride will also be operating in Langkawi beginning 16th September 2021. The airasia ride e-hailing service can be booked by clicking on the ‘Ride’ icon on the airasia Super App, or visitingairasia.com/ride.

Riad Asmat, CEO AirAsia Malaysia and Amanda Woo, CEO airasia Super App announced these initiatives at an online press conference held today, which was also attended by En Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, Chief Executive Officer, Lembaga Pembangunan Langkawi (LADA).

Riad Asmat, CEO AirAsia Malaysia said: ‘Since the government’s announcement of the Langkawi travel bubble’s SOP last week, we have seen very strong uptake for seats to Langkawi, especially with the RM12 low fares and RM99 SNAP deals by AirAsia. This clearly indicates a strong pent up demand for travel and AirAsia is committed towards working with the government, Tourism Malaysia, LADA and all tourism industry players to make this a success with more than 90 weekly flights to Langkawi. From an operational standpoint, we have prepared extensively and implemented robust and comprehensive health and safety protocols to ensure all of our guests can travel safely, while our crew can bring our guests to their favourite island destination safely as well.

‘Our self check-in system on the airasia Super App is our latest innovation that integrates data from certified healthcare providers to seamlessly verify a guest’s travel eligibility based on their test certificate and/or vaccination certificate. Our comprehensive travel