With most of us hoping that the worst of the pandemic may be over, the predictions about a huge rise in unemployment following the phasing out of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) seem to be wide of the mark.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the opposite to be true, with its latest statistics showing that job vacancies are up and the jobless rate falling from 4.9 per cent to 4.7 per cent.

However, the ONS statistics also show that working hours are yet to return to pre-COVID levels, nevertheless, the redundancy rate dropped to 3.6 per cent for the quarter.

A recent survey has found that only 11 per cent of staff still on the furlough scheme which ends at the end of September, were actively looking for jobs, a potential headache for employers who may feel they have to make cutbacks.

The survey found job search inactivity was due to many having sufficient savings, fears over returning to the workplace with COVID still a threat, with others citing child care and access to benefits for the lack of urgency.

The survey also found that 41 per cent of those still on furlough are not searching for other work, along with over 56 per cent of those not currently working.

Many workers still furloughed will be eyeing the end date anxiously, while employers and their HR departments wrestle with the possibility of making them redundant when the scheme ends.

But with the labour market seemingly buoyant and vacancies back to, and even above, pre-COVID figures, there could be a silver lining for those potentially affected.

There are many unfilled vacancies, particularly in the hospitality and logistics sector.

Jack Kennedy, the UK economist at Indeed, which conducted the research, warned about being complacent about finances and said employees on furlough appear to be taking a relaxed approach.

He said: “Among the unemployed, a sense of financial security is allowing some to be choosier about the jobs they search and apply for. Around 30 per cent of unemployed people who are not urgently looking for work said they had a financial cushion sufficient for some time.

“Despite current record vacancies, one-third of respondents want to wait for more job opportunities. Suggests degree of mismatch — available jobs may not be in fields people want. However, some respondents may simply be waiting for better opportunities to emerge.”

As the full impact of COVID unravels, HR departments will be busy, whether with the hiring of new staff or letting go of others, so seek advice at your earliest opportunity.