UK job vacancies still at near record

Job vacancies in the UK fell for the fifth month in a row in the quarter to the end of November but remain at historically high levels, according to the latest official estimates.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed on Tuesday that the total number of vacancies by the end of last month stood at 1,187,000, 65,000 down on the previous quarter.

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Near-record vacancies remain

"Despite five consecutive quarterly falls, the number of vacancies remains at historically high levels. The fall in the number of vacancies reflects uncertainty across industries, as respondents continue to cite economic pressures as a factor in holding back on recruitment," said the ONS.However, the near-record level of vacancies led the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), one of the nation's largest business organisations, to renew its call for an expanded visa system to enable firms to hire the overseas skills they so badly need.Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the BCC, said the data continued to show that the tightness in the UK labour market "is not shifting significantly".She added: “Job vacancies remain at record highs, adding to the recessionary pressure businesses are facing.“We have urged the government to immediately reform the Shortage Occupations List. This will help businesses fill urgent job vacancies from abroad when they cannot recruit skilled people locally.“Firms need to support over-50s to return to work and invest much more in training and upskilling. But politicians need to be realistic about the skills we need from outside the UK.“It’s time for a sensible debate that looks beyond the headline immigration figures, as these include students and are skewed. They don’t reflect the real-life situation facing employers up and down the country.Brexit has given us control of our borders and government must use the appropriate levers to help struggling businesses get the people they need.“It’s no use talking about growth if we are not prepared to take action on it."

Employment increased

The ONS report also showed that the UK employment rate by the end of October had increased by 0.2 per cent to 75.6 per cent but was still below pre-pandemic levels."Over the latest three-month period, the number of employees increased, while self-employed workers decreased," added the report."The most timely estimate of pay-rolled employees for November 2022 shows another monthly increase, up 107,000 on the revised October figures, to a record 29.9 million."The unemployment rate for the August-October quarter increased by 0.1 percentage points to 3.7 per cent, while the economic inactivity rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points.Kitty Ussher, Chief Economist at the Institute of Directors, commented: “The labour market has now turned. While unemployment is still, thankfully, very low by historical standards, it has started to march upwards.“The Bank of England therefore needs to pause for thought before continuing its aggressive path of interest rate rises. When the medicine is starting to work it can be reckless to keep increasing the dose.“On balance, a slight and cautious rise on Thursday is probably justified until it becomes clear that inflation is on a firm downwards path. However, anything more would risk over-shooting their medium-term target leading to unnecessary pain among those seeking work to raise their household incomes.”

Reimagining the world of work

Matthew Percival, Programme Director for Skills and Inclusion at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), added that ONS data showing the first signs of the over-50s returning to work would be "hugely welcomed" by businesses.“Despite this, the labour market remains very tight," he added. "Business and government need to pull every lever to ease shortages, including helping more people to overcome the barriers like the cost of childcare and ill-health that are preventing them from working, investing in technology and new ways of working to boost productivity, and investing in skills.”

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