Sign up here for our daily coronavirus newsletter on what you need to know

The U.K. government signaled it will keep restrictions on overseas travel in place for now to control a surge in coronavirus infections and the risk of new variants of the virus taking hold.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said “normal” holidays were “never going to be the case” this year because of increasing Covid-19 cases. His comments indicate increasing concern about a third wave of cases in the U.K. despite one of the world’s most aggressive vaccination programs.

“There are going to have to be significant trade-offs” Buckland said on Sky News’s Trevor Phillips show on Sunday. “We’ve tried to strike the right balance between the natural need in some cases for international travel, but also the imperative of making sure that we do everything we can at home to contain and prevent inadvertent spread of new variants.”

The remarks are a blow to airlines and a growing number of members of Parliament in the ruling Conservative Party pressing for the government to loosen restrictions. While the U.S. and European Union are starting to open borders for travel, Britain has rules requiring quarantine and Covid testing for travelers arriving from most places.

Liam Fox, the former Conservative cabinet minister in charge of trade policy, urged the government to find a way for those who have received two doses of a vaccine to travel without having to quarantine.

“The world cannot be closed down and that, sooner or later, we will have to learn to live with Covid-19 just as we have learned to live with other viral illnesses over time,” Fox wrote in a column for the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office confirmed that officials are considering plans to open up international travel for passengers who’ve been fully inoculated. They didn’t give an indication when the measures could be in place.

For now, health authorities are urging the government to move slowly in lowering restrictions, especially on foreign travel.

“The extra time to vaccinate more people, get two doses of vaccination in as many people as possible will hopefully mean that what we’re seeing with this wave won’t look the same as the previous waves that we’ve seen in this country,” Susan Hopkins, the strategic response director at Public Health England, said on British Broadcasting Corp.’s “Andrew Marr” show.

While Hopkins said the country is moving toward living with Covid-19 as it does with influenza and other respiratory infections, “we may need to do further lockdowns this winter” if hospitals become overwhelmed. “We should predominantly holiday at home this summer.”

Under current rules, destinations are coded red for the highest coronavirus infection risk, amber for medium risk and green for the lowest risk. Travelers are advised against going to amber or red list countries.

People who arrive in England from destinations on the amber list must quarantine at home or in the place where they are staying for 10

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Text size

Businesses and school districts say they want to hire. So why aren’t they? It’s an important puzzle, and anyone interested in the answer should focus on what’s happening in the manufacturing sector.

Consider the job numbers released last week, which weren’t just disappointing, but also confusing. Outside of leisure and hospitality and personal services, the private sector shed 157,000 payroll jobs in April. And while the weakness in sectors such as home building and motor-vehicle manufacturing can be attributed to shortages of specific inputs such as lumber and microprocessors, that doesn’t explain why hiring in the rest of the economy was so poor even as consumer spending is still at all-time highs.

The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or Jolts, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics only deepens this confusion. The total number of posted openings hit its highest level ever in March, up 8% from February. That’s a remarkable number—and the high-frequency data from Indeed’s Hiring Lab suggest that the demand for workers has continued to rise since the March Jolts data were collected.

Without any additional context, this would imply that the U.S. economy is running incredibly hot. So why hasn’t hiring picked up to meet demand?

One possibility is that the job market isn’t as hot the openings data imply, especially relative to the number of Americans who want jobs. Excluding people who said they were on temporary layoff and expected to be recalled—but including the millions of Americans who temporarily dropped out of the labor force—there were about 1.43 unemployed Americans per job opening in March. That’s down from 2.8 jobless per job opening back in April 2020, but far higher than the ratio of 0.7 that prevailed in the year before the pandemic. 

Another possibility is that some jobless workers are staying out of the labor force because they can earn more from unemployment benefits than from the jobs that are available. While that may be true in some places and in some cases, the biggest payroll gains in April were in the lowest-paying sectors. Moreover, those were the sectors that also saw the biggest wage increases, which suggests that businesses have been able to draw workers back by offering better pay.

The impact of enhanced unemployment insurance could also be obscured by the pandemic itself. At first, the virus increased the physical risk of many occupations and also limited access to child care for many working parents, thereby reducing labor supply. But as the pandemic recedes thanks to progress on vaccinations, Americans who had been unwilling or unable to work should return to employment as long as demand holds up. The improving public health situation may have offset much of the impact of enhanced jobless benefits on leisure and hospitality employment over the past couple of months, for example.

Jed Kolko,
chief economist at Indeed, said that measuring the relative importance of these countervailing forces is probably impossible “without hindsight and near-academic-level analysis.”