The great rehire – vacancies at record levels

jobs board

More than a million jobs remained unfilled in the UK in the three months to August as employers rushed to hire in an unprecedented post-pandemic recruitment drive.

There were an estimated 1,034,000 vacancies between June and August, according to the Office for National Statistics – the highest number since records began two decades ago and 249,000 above the pre-pandemic January to March 2020 level.

The ONS also said unemployment fell to 4.6 per cent in the three months to July, meeting analysts’ expectations and down from 4.7 per cent a month earlier.

There were also more people entering the jobs market as more opportunities became available: economic inactivity fell, partly because of a sharp rise in the number of students working or job hunting, while fewer people said they were looking after family.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the statistics “show that our plan for jobs is working”, adding that the government’s focus “remains on creating opportunities and supporting people’s jobs”.

Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors said this meant that the economy was “well-prepared for the end of furlough”.

But the FSB’s National Chair Mike Cherry said today’s figures don’t reflect the reality facing many small firms.He said: “Labour costs are rising, skills shortages are making it harder and harder to recruit, and several regions and sectors are struggling to find their feet. With the end of furlough only weeks away, policymakers cannot afford to be complacent.”

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage said:: “It’s welcoming to see the turning of the tide with the drop in unemployment in the UK, a sure sign of positive change following the pandemic. With more people on the payroll many businesses will be facing the usual challenges of onboarding and welcoming their new team members, keeping them engaged and excited to work with them.

“However, there are still over a million vacancies in the UK still left to fill, and the pool of available talent is dwindling. It’s vital that businesses understand and act on what candidates are looking for. Some may simply be looking for a pay rise, whilst others – who may have been subjected to a lacklustre response to the pandemic – will be searching for an organisation who has a stronger sense of care for their people.”

A report from employment expert Citation, has found that difficulties filling vacant roles, and finding cover for absent employees, is causing staffing costs to soar.

With more time and resources being put into finding the right candidates, and covering staff sickness/self-isolation due to Covid-19, the report found that almost 60% of businesses in the sector are experiencing rising costs.

More than half of firms have seen staffing costs rise by at least 30%, putting employers under intense pressure to maintain a functioning workforce, whilst balancing costs with the wider business.

Gill McAteer, head of employment law, said: “Covering absence and recruiting talent can be a costly process for employers, and what the construction industry is currently facing is unprecedented.

“The current skills shortage is meaning that added pressure is put on employees, and with many of those having to take time off due to illness and isolation, businesses are paying the price.

“With self-isolation rules having recently changed for the double vaccinated, employers should start to see a drop in the number of workers being required to isolate. Although this should help to balance the rise in staffing costs, many employers are confused about the rules.”

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