According to the latest set of official figures, the number of job vacancies within the UK has hit a record high
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said that vacancies within the UK hit 1.1 million between the months of July and September, the highest level since records had began back in 2001.
The largest increase in vacancies was within the UK’s retail sector, as well as within motor vehicle repair, it has said.
The UK’s unemployment rate was estimated to be at 4.5%, compared with a rate of 4% before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ONS has said that the number of employees on payrolls in the country showed another monthly increase, rising from 207,000 up to a record 29.2 million in the month of September.
“The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, with the number of employees on payroll in September now well exceeding pre-pandemic levels,” said Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS.
“Vacancies also reached a new one-month record in September, at nearly 1.2 million, with our latest estimates suggesting that all industries have at least as many jobs on offer now as before the onset of Covid-19.”
This comes after councils have warned that motorists could be stuck on icy roads this winter because of a shortage of gritter drivers. The Local Government Association says that the public sector is struggling to compete with the gritter driver salaries on offer from hauliers, as the fallout from a shortage of HGV drivers rumbles on.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that it was “encouraging” to see that the government’s jobs strategy was working.
“The number of expected redundancies remained very low in September, there are more employees on payrolls than ever before and the unemployment rate has fallen for eight months in a row.”
However, Yael Selfin, the chief economist at KPMG UK, has said that labour market shortages “could stunt” the UK’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
“The recovery is testing the capacity of the economy to adjust to a new post-pandemic environment, a task made more difficult by the reduced availability of overseas workers,” she said.
“Acute skill shortages have pushed vacancies to record levels for a second month in a row in September, as employers struggled to find skilled staff.”
Mark Jenkins, a supply chain director for the food wholesaler Brakes, says that it has been an incredibly challenging time for recruitment across the entire food supply chain industry.
“All around us in this part of London, there are other companies recruiting at the same time.
“In the last four months, we’ve recruited 700 people. But 400 of our staff have left us to work for other companies.
“For every two people we hire, only one person stays, because there are other jobs in the market. Our training costs have increased.
“Wages have gone up by 15% to 20% in some parts of the business in order to attract the right kind of people. And on top of that we’re paying retention bonuses to hang on to the staff we do have.
“Everything is making it really difficult for us to service our customers. The whole pressure on the industry at the moment is extreme.
Mark says the cost of higher wages will have to be passed on.
“Our suppliers are passing on costs, we’re passing some of those costs to our customers, and at the end of the day, the consumers will feel the pain.”
This comes after the Prime Minister has denied the UK is in crisis as both labour shortages and supply issues continue to affect the nation. Amidst the shortages, the PM said that the economy was facing the “stresses and strains that you’d expect from a giant waking up” after the COVID-19.
Sectors that had large increases in vacancies included accommodation and food services, professional activities and manufacturing.
A shortage of lorry drivers, which the industry has blamed on factors including Covid, Brexit and tax changes, has affected fuel supplies in recent weeks and also disrupted food supply chains.
The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) said labour shortages were “affecting the whole economy, and where likely between a quarter and a third is explained by lower migration”.
Tony Wilson, director of the IES, said there were now fewer unemployed people per vacancy than at any time in at least 40 years.
“We estimate that there’s nearly a million fewer people in the labour market than on pre-crisis trends, with this being driven particularly by fewer older people in work and more young people in education,” he said.
“These shortages are holding back our economic recovery, and won’t fix themselves by just exhorting firms to pay people more.
“Instead we need to do far better at helping some of the six million people who are outside the labour market because of ill health, caring or full-time study to get back into work.”