UK job vacancies surge to record high 2.7 million as labour shortage worsens

·2-min read
The number of job vacancies has risen to its highest level on record  (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The number of job vacancies has risen to its highest level on record (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The number of job vacancies in the UK has soared to a record high as employers increasingly struggle to find staff amid a worsening labour shortage.

Driving instructors, prison officers and forklift truck drivers are among those in highest demand, according to trade body the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Employers posted 221,000 job adverts last week, taking the total to 2.7 million. The biggest weekly rise in vacancies was in driving instructors (up 32 per cent) while painting and decorating jobs saw the biggest fall (17.8 per cent)

The REC said that the number of job ads does not look set to fall until next year.

While the news is likely to be welcomed by job hunters, it adds to difficulties for many businesses, which have struggled to find staff as the economy has begun to recover.

Hospitality, logistics and construction are among the sectors to have been impacted by a shortage of labour caused by the upheaval of the pandemic and exacerbated by the departure of European workers after Brexit.

Companies have struggled to recruit workers with the skills they need despite offering big pay rises and better conditions.

Meanwhile workers have reconsidered their options and quit their jobs during the pandemic, in a trend that some labour market analysts have dubbed the “Great Resignation”.

“The latest job advert numbers show recruitment activity staying strong in the run-up to Christmas,” said Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC.

“It’s vital that, as the recovery continues, government put measures in place that will help companies invest with confidence, thereby increasing productivity and helping the economy to grow. That includes a revolution in the skills system, especially focused on helping those furthest from the labour market into work.”

A shortage of workers has caused severe disruption to the supply of goods as haulage companies, warehouses and food processing plants struggle to get goods to their intended destinations.

That has meant less availability of goods, and price rises for customers.

Chris Gray, director of Manpower Group, said too few candidates were chasing too many vacancies.

Pubs, bars and restaurants have been particularly badly affected, with many now struggling to fill entry-level jobs.

“This is a relatively new dynamic for the hospitality sector, where although shortages are common at peak times of the year they are normally self-correcting as students return home or people look to pick up extra work.

“What’s causing the shortage at the moment is not so much a lack of people – we’re seeing a similar number of respondents to hospitality job ads in 2021 as we were in 2019 – but rather many more roles to fill. In fact, in September we were on the hunt for over four times as many roles as we were in September 2019.”

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