Why record vacancies may not be good news for jobseekers or businesses

·3-min read

Record job vacancies across many sectors of the economy may seem like good news for workers.

But the reality is likely to be more nuanced.

Sky News analysis has shown that despite the post pandemic boom in job adverts, people looking for work may not be in the right places to fill them, with different regions facing different challenges.

It could mean a continuing crisis for businesses struggling to find staff as the economy realigns.

The analysis cross-references the number of people who were either unemployed or furloughed as of May to July this year with the growth in vacancies in each region.

It shows that London is by far the worst place to be at the moment if you are a worker with the highest number of people likely to now be looking for work, competing for fewer jobs.

The capital had 13.4% of over 16 unemployed or furloughed, the highest in the country.

And while vacancies were 104% of what they were pre-pandemic, this was the smallest growth nationally.

The opposite is true in Northern Ireland, where vacancies grew 154%, the second steepest in the country, but there are comparatively fewer people looking for work.

Other regions face similar challenges.

Much of Northern England is managing very high vacancy rates, not necessarily matched by local job hunters.

At Leeds College of Building, this all amounts to a solid start for those still in training.

Job vacancies are up in construction and so is student optimism.

Joseph Chapman has just started a course in bricklaying.

"Everyone needs a bricklayer now and again," he says, "so hopefully I can find an apprenticeship, get some on-site experience, probably do a few years under a business and then eventually start my own business."

Derek Whitehead is the principal of the college and he has worked here for nearly twenty years.

Job openings are now the best he has ever seen, not just in the sector but in the region too.

"The industry is buzzing," he says. "There's major skills gaps."

"It's really a buyers' market for our students and an opportunity for employers to fish in our pond."

Up the M1 in Rotherham that's not always been the case.

The news that the jobs at the Liberty Steel plant will be saved was still met with relief here.

High vacancies might be good news for some, but if there aren't enough people to fill them there is a very tough time ahead of businesses.

At Gulliver's Valley theme park in Rotherham, they just cannot get the staff. They are fighting for young workers to stay.

"Hospitality has been seen as the job you get before you get your proper job," says managing director Julie Dalton.

"Actually the service industry is huge in this country and we have to start making it a prime industry and training people for it.

"So we're actively working with a number of local companies to get a skills academy going which is hospitality-focused so we can take kids at a lot younger age and say there is a career here for you, there is a path for you."

If ever there were a symbol of the change to a town it can be found at the former Templeborough steelworks which is now a science adventure centre.

It will host Sky News' first Big Ideas Live event on Tuesday where experts, leaders and locals will discuss these challenges and others faced by business, industry and workers.

The economy still has much realigning to do in the wake of the shocks wrought by the pandemic and by Brexit.

There will very likely be more change to come in a region that's already seen so much.

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