The past five weeks have seen the highest number of job adverts posted in nearly nine months, as employers scrambled to fill vacancies amid growing worker shortages.
Last week (23-29 August) there were 1.66 million “active” job adverts in the UK, including 193,000 new jobs that were posted, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).
It said the number of jobs posted in the past five weeks had reached its highest since mid-December 2020.
Among the roles seeing a significant increase in demand included dispensing opticians (a 26.4% increase in new job adverts), driving instructors (12.9%), vehicle body builders and repairers (12.9%) and vehicle valeters and cleaners (9.2%).
Scotland saw a hiring boom, with six out of the top 10 hiring hotspots identified by REC located in the country. In Na h-Eileanan Siar (the Outer Hebrides) the number of positions on offer leapt by 134.8%.
However, demand for workers in some sectors is falling, the REC’s Jobs Recovery Tracker also showed. Last week there was a 10.1% drop in job adverts for ambulance staff excluding paramedics; a 9.7% drop in adverts for conference and exhibition organisers; and a 7.9% fall in demand for standards and regulations inspectors.
Neil Carberry, REC chief executive, said the coming months could be difficult for employers, even with staff coming off of furlough.
He said some of rise in job availability could be a short-term trend as workers re-evaluated their careers as the economy reopened.
“Large numbers of people are finding new work post-pandemic as the economy reshapes. But that realignment will take time, and there is good evidence to suggest that the market will remain tight for some years to come, even if the current crisis passes,” said Carberry.
“Hiring businesses need to assess their workforce plans and work out how they are going to attract and retain the staff they need in the coming months and years. Recruitment businesses are best placed to help with this, as experts in the field. But employers also need government to work with them in a practical, co-operative way on skills, unemployment and immigration changes in order to get through this crisis.”
Staff shortages have been particularly acute in the food, logistics and hospitality sectors.
Industry bodies have been unsuccessful in their campaign for temporary visas for HGV drivers, which they say would help ease shortages caused by Brexit and Covid-19. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said firms should focus on hiring and training UK-based workers.
Large numbers of people are finding new work post-pandemic as the economy reshapes. But that realignment will take time, and there is good evidence to suggest that the market will remain tight for some years to come” – Neil Carberry, Recruitment and Employment Confederation
Supermarkets have been increasing lorry drivers’ wages and offering joining bonuses to encourage them to accept roles with them, but the UK Trade and Business Commission has warned this could lead to worker shortages at haulage companies.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “We are concerned that some of the drivers in other fleets, like delivering to schools, prisons and wholesalers, will be gravitating towards our chains, which is great for us and our consumers but probably not great for the economy.”
Many have suggested that consumers could see empty shelves at Christmas if the driver shortage persists, but Opie said it was too early to tell what the impact might be.
“Our members that we’re speaking to are not anticipating major problems for Christmas at the moment, but they are also saying that, you know, it’s so challenging at the moment, it’s really difficult to keep their head above water and maximise what for many businesses is that crucial period in the run up to Christmas.”
Almost half of organisations have been unable to return to full operational capacity after the pandemic, rising to 71% among firms with nine employees or fewer, according to a survey by One World Express published by City A.M. Most of the staff shortages among those polled were attributed to Covid-19 self-isolation requirements.
This has led 55% of organisations to suggest that any further national lockdowns would be “extremely damaging” to their operations.