UK job vacancies hit another record high

Another rise in the record number of vacancies in the UK jobs market has highlighted the continuing skills shortage confronting businesses across virtually every sector of the economy.

UK red bus with workers walking down the street in front of it
Figures on Tuesday from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that, in the three months to the end of November, the number of job vacancies hit 1.22 million - 434,500 higher than pre-pandemic levels.

What the data says about UK vacancies

The Institute for Employment Studies estimated that there were now more than one million fewer people in the labour market than pre-pandemic levels, largely as a result of a decline in migration on pre-crisis trends and because of older people leaving work.ONS data showed that UK employers added 257,000 staff to their payrolls in November, despite the end of the furlough scheme, as the unemployment rate edged down to 4.2%, only slightly higher than the low recorded before the arrival of Covid-19.Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics development at the ONS, said the numbers on payrolls across the country were now above pre-pandemic levels.The one cloud on the horizon was the sudden and rapid spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19, which has prompted the devolved UK governments to introduce 'Plan B' restrictions on social gatherings - a move that could prove particularly harmful to the hospitality industry.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak says to get the booster

With this in mind, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak appealed to Britons to get booster vaccines to restrict the spread of the disease."The jobs outlook remains strong thanks to our £400 billion economic support package, Plan for Jobs and fantastic vaccine programme," he said."To keep safeguarding our economic recovery and the lives and livelihoods of the British people, I am now calling on everyone to keep playing their part and get boosted now." Industry chiefs echoed these concerns. Matthew Percival, director of employment at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), commented, “Job creation remained strong this autumn, but continuing difficulty hiring, the emergence of omicron variant and new restrictions will mean a challenging winter for businesses.“The government is taking necessary action now to protect the public, but the economy should remain as open as is feasibly safe to do so in the coming weeks. More effort must go into promoting actions that can build confidence and protect public health, like daily contact testing and mask wearing."Mr Percival added that with some sectors of the economy likely to be hit hard by the latest restrictions on social gatherings, the government should be ready to provide "further targeted support".

British Chambers of Commerce: UK jobs market has continued to rebound strongly

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the ONS figures confirmed that the UK jobs market had continued to rebound strongly.“Record vacancies underscore the severe recruitment crunch facing businesses. Although the changes to Covid self-isolation rules are welcome, with coronavirus and Brexit driving a structural decline in available labour, staff shortages may persistently constrain economic activity," he said.“Although labour demand remains robust, Plan B may damage the jobs recovery by squeezing hiring intentions in those sectors most exposed to the new measures, including hospitality and retail, by diminishing their cashflow and dampening customer demand."Pawel Adrjan, economist at the global jobs site Indeed, agreed that jobs growth might stall because of the arrival of the omicron variant.
“As the omicron variant takes hold and MPs vote on a new set of Covid restrictions, many sectors that have been doing particularly well this year - from hospitality to high street retail - will be deeply worried that their progress could be abruptly halted,” he said.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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