Vaccine rollout expected to boost UK hiring

Almost a fifth of UK companies expect to increase the size of their workforce in the coming months, according to the latest survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Covid vaccines
However, the BCC's Quarterly Recruitment Outlook, compiled in partnership with the Totaljobs website, found marked differences in intentions among different sectors of the economy, reflecting the effects of the lockdown resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.The survey of almost 6,000 firms found that those in manufacturing and construction were most optimistic about increasing the size of their workforces, while hotel and catering companies and, perhaps more surprisingly, those in transport and distribution were the most likely to expect the size of their workforces to decrease in the next quarter.Data on vacancies and applications from Totaljobs showed that, in the last quarter of 2020, jobs in logistics, IT, administration, sales and customer service roles were the most popular.The data also showed that, between October and November, there was a 26% rise in job vacancies, before a seasonal decline over the Christmas period. Again, the biggest volume of vacancies was seen in logistics, IT and skilled trades.Despite the November lockdown across the country, the survey reflected a modest improvement in the overall number of businesses attempting to recruit in the last quarter of 2020, with 41% of firms trying to find new staff, compared to 37% in Q3. This, however, was still markedly down from the 55% trying to recruit before the pandemic struck in March.Looking forward, 19% of respondents said they expected the size of their workforces to increase while 68% anticipated no change and 14% predicted a decrease.Totaljobs data for January  showed that skilled trades, social care and engineering had joined IT and logistics as the sectors posting the highest volume of vacancies.Claire Walker, co-executive director of the BCC, said, “The vaccine rollout provides genuine light at the end of the tunnel – but it is essential that government provides the support that ensures that businesses survive the current crisis and are ready and able to power economic recovery, creating new jobs, when the time comes.”Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs, added that while the vaccine rollout had given businesses  hope, "there is still a way to go" with many sectors remaining in a challenging position and putting hiring on pause.“Throughout the difficulties of the pandemic, a real positive has been the increasing determination from jobseekers to take their careers into their own hands, focusing on their personal development by proactively upskilling. Totaljobs research found that 30% of workers acquired a new skill or qualification last year," he said.“While the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, set to launch this April, looks promising in its aim to drive adult education and training, changes must be made to the scheme to improve eligibility. Through this, more businesses, no matter their sector, can see the benefits of this scheme, alongside jobseekers and workers across the UK.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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