EU workers slowly return to UK job searches

The end of lockdown restrictions in the UK has prompted an increase in the number of Europeans looking for work in the country, according to a new report.

However, jobs search engine Adzuna said its research showed that the total of Continental searches in British jobs was still well below the numbers before Brexit and the onset of the pandemic last year.But Adzuna added: "In a promising sign for businesses grappling with staff shortages, searches from inside the European Union for positions in Britain have risen steadily since hitting the floor in April last year."Since then, the Office for National Statistics estimates the UK has lost about 100,000 EU workers, with the hospitality and logistics sector being particularly badly affected.But, Adzuna found, there had been "a step-change" in the number of searches European searches - at least in the hospitality industry - since pubs and restaurants began reopening in spring this year.While the research concluded the number of EU residents currently seeking work in Britain was still 48 per cent lower than it was in August 2019, there had been a marked increase in searches in recent months, notably from Spanish workers.Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said: “It’s been tough going for UK employers looking to hire staff in the first half of this year. The combined effects of the pandemic, travel restrictions and the furlough scheme have led to a significant supply and demand imbalance in the job market.
“But there is hope for companies recruiting this month and into the autumn. Adzuna’s latest data covering the first seven days of this month shows a swell in jobseeker activity from the UK and overseas. As kids go back to school and border restrictions ease, we anticipate jobseekers flooding back into the market.”The report pointed out that the flow of migrant labour from the EU had dried up during the pandemic with many workers returning to their home countries. Official figures last month showed that the number of vacancies in the UK had exceeded one million for the first time.Adzuna said the absence of European workers is causing disquiet in the business community and had led to calls for the government to ease its post-Brexit immigration policy.It was a message reinforced on Monday by Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). He said in a speech at Manchester Business School: “It’s uncomfortable to hear, but we’ve benefited from abundant labour for a long time now."Yet the labour shortages we’re hearing about – in sectors like logistics and transport, food and drink manufacturing, engineering and technology – aren’t something businesses can resolve by simply increasing hourly rates.“We need to be honest about what this is going to take rather than government pretending firms can solve this overnight. If you want to solve the immediate shortages, you’re going to need to use the new immigration system we developed post-Brexit to bring in only the skills we need. It was built for exactly this situation."Adzuna pointed out the shortages had become a concern for the Bank of England, whose governor, Andrew Bailey, said last month that the "challenge of avoiding a steep rise in unemployment has been replaced by that of ensuring a flow of labour into jobs".The company added: "Renewed interest from migrant workers is not keeping pace with the rapid increase in demand for workers. Vacancies are rising at a record pace and sectors that rely heavily on migrant workers are still struggling with a shortfall of EU workers.“There are over one million roles still unfilled in Britain this month and there is clearly a lingering supply and demand imbalance in place."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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