Helen Barnard, Research and Policy Director at PBE, said:

“This latest snapshot of the labour market shows that 8.8 million people are now economically inactive, up 5.3% since the start of the pandemic, and there are a record 1.3m job vacancies. The reality is we have a considerable participation problem in the labour market, which government policy is yet to catch up with.

“Inactivity rates remain highest in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber and the North West of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, putting the government’s levelling up ambitions at risk unless they speedily get to grips with it.

“The national Restart jobs scheme, aimed at supporting people out of work since the pandemic, was not designed for the increased number of individuals outside of the labour market due to temporary and long-term sickness. This cohort need specialist, tailored support to help them return to the workplace.

“There are charities up and down the country that specialise in delivering the employability support that is widely needed, especially for those with mental ill health.

“This is an opportunity for policymakers to bring together this network of charities with specialist expertise to design a programme focused on increasing participation, including supporting employers to make changes which open up more jobs to disabled people and carers.”

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