The number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 197,000 between April and May but has fallen by 553,000 since the pandemic struck, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Job vacancies rose as shops and hospitality businesses were given the go-ahead to reopen, however, the economy is still severely behind on the number of people left out of work as a result of the pandemic.
Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “The number of employees on payroll grew strongly in May, up by almost 200,000, although it is still over half a million down since the pandemic struck.
“Job vacancies continued to recover in the spring, and our early estimates suggest that by May the total had surpassed its pre-pandemic level, with strong growth in sectors such as hospitality.
“Meanwhile the redundancy rate remains subdued, while the number of employees on furlough has continued to decline.”
The latest figures come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson added an extra 30 days to the UK’s end-of-lockdown plan, warning the country is not ready to reopen on June 21, as previously pledged.
Social distancing will remain and night club closures will continue for at least one more month, with the deadline to have Brits vaccinated fast tracked by two weeks.
However, despite the extension on lockdown easing, the Number 10 said the furlough and business rates relief schemes will not be extended.
Around 4.2million people are still on the job retentions scheme.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our Plan for Jobs is working – the latest forecasts for unemployment are around half of what was previously feared and the number of employees on payroll is at its highest level since April last year.
“We understand the value of work and the distress caused by unemployment – that is why we are continuing to support people and jobs.
“The furlough scheme is running all the way through until September and we are creating new routes into work through apprenticeships, Kickstart placements for young people as well as targeted support for the long-term unemployed.”