Where are the 1 million job vacancies in the UK concentrated?


Against all odds, the UK job market is booming, with over a million vacancies.

The coronavirus crisis initially raised fears of mass unemployment but the end of most restrictions related to Covid-19 triggered a wave of employer hiring that has spilled over to all sectors of the economy.

Many companies are now struggling to find staff. Surveys suggest the frantic pace of hiring is slowing down, but vacancies continue to rise and, in at least one measure – the ratio of job seekers to unfilled positions – the UK labor market is at its highest level since four decades.

Here are the sectors where vacancies are concentrated.

Hotel industry: the fight for the staff

Hiring bottlenecks were expected in sectors that reopened at high speed after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, but they are taking longer than expected to dissipate.

The hospitality industry, which employs around one in ten of the UK workforce, is among the industries with the highest level of vacancies. The latest official data shows 134,000 unfilled positions, months after pubs, restaurants and hotels reopened.

The sector has historically experienced a high turnover rate, but employers have said it is now much more difficult than usual to fill vacancies. Some 40 percent of hospitality employers report staff shortages, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Many are responding by demanding that workers work overtime, reduce bargaining hours, or even close.

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Labor shortages have become so acute that restaurant, hotel and bar operators have found staff to be poached by rivals. A London restaurateur said some competitors came during working hours to hand out business cards.

Other companies, such as Asian fast food chain Itsu, have increased wages three times in as many months in a battle to retain staff. “The understaffing is just crippling,” said managing director Julian Metcalfe.

UKHospitality, the trade body, said staff shortages were felt most severely in London, which traditionally depended on EU workers. The other pinch points are in coastal and vacation destinations where the boom in “stays” has resulted in increased demand for staff over the summer.

A key issue is that many workers left the industry during the pandemic because payments under the government’s leave plan did not cover lost tips, leaving them significantly less than their usual earnings. Meanwhile, more young people than usual stayed in education, narrowing the pool of potential recruits for the industry.

Social assistance: vacancy rate at acute levels

Some of the most visible labor shortages – for truck drivers, butchers and food processing workers – have occurred in areas where UK employers have historically struggled to recruit and previously relied on foreign workers until post-Brexit restrictions on low-skilled migrants come into effect.

These chronic shortages, while having significant effects on supply chains and product availability in supermarkets, primarily affect a small proportion of the UK workforce.

The striking exception is adult welfare, a sector that employs more than a million people and already had one of the highest vacancy rates before the pandemic. The pressures eased slightly in 2020, as healthcare operators hired people who had lost their jobs in other industries, but are now worse off than before the crisis.

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Skills for Care, the industry body for workforce development, estimates that 6.8% of adult social services positions in England were vacant in 2020-2021, equivalent to 105,000 vacancies , but the rate rose to 9.1% in October.

“There is no denying that this is one of the toughest recruiting markets our colleagues have seen,” said James Tugendhat, Managing Director of HC-One, the Kingdom’s largest nursing home operator. -United.

Robert Kilgour, founder of Renaissance Care, which operates 16 homes across Scotland, said he should consider wing and floor closures if staff shortages worsen.

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While post-Brexit immigration rules have had an impact, the fundamental problem is wages, limited by low levels of public funding. A wage of £ 9 an hour – the current HC-One minimum and the median for self-employed social workers – is lower than the UK average for cleaners and retail assistants.

The situation was exacerbated, however, by the government’s decision to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for nursing home staff in England from Thursday.

Tugendhat said about 300 employees have already left HC-One as a result, adding, “In a month where you could lose 500 employees through natural turnover, another 200-300 is a pressure.”

Logistics and warehousing: source of new jobs

One of the reasons that industries such as hospitality and healthcare are struggling to recruit is because they face new competition, ranging from public sector programs like NHS Test and Trace, to industries that are falling apart. are developed rapidly as a result of the pandemic.

The number of jobs announced in transport, logistics and warehouses has quadrupled from its pre-pandemic level, according to real-time data from the ONS.

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Figures put together by Indeed, the job search site, show that job vacancies for loading and storage stations have more than doubled since February 2020, as have jobs in cleaning and sanitation. Advertisements for driver jobs are up about 60 percent.

White collar roles: a race for talent

The biggest labor shortages so far have been in manual jobs and the low-wage service sector: data does not indicate a sudden shortage of accountants or lawyers.

But as companies begin to launch new ventures and office workers gain confidence to quit their jobs, some pressures on hiring white-collar workers are apparent.

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Simon Winfield, UK and Irish chief executive of recruitment firm Hays, said marketing, engineering and life sciences skills were in high demand. Doug Rode, UK and Irish managing director of PageGroup, another recruiter, said he had seen a significant number of vacancies in sales, marketing, finance and human resources.

They and others said the biggest rush for talent was in technology, with companies fighting for specialist software developers, engineers and cybersecurity experts who could help them update their IT systems quickly. to enable flexible cloud-based work.

“There has been a massive increase in the need for the technical skills required,” said Ross Bentley, sales manager at Roc Search, a specialist recruiter.

Zoe Morris, President of Frank Recruitment Group, an IT staffing company, added: “The last 18 months have shown that the way of working is going to be very different in the future, so there is this huge acceleration towards cloud. And what that means is that the demand for talent is almost, well, it’s completely out of sync. “

London: the delay in hiring

One of the factors behind labor shortages can be a mismatch between where jobs are open and where workers are available.

Vacancies are highest above pre-pandemic levels in North East England and other parts of the country where healthcare, education and thriving sectors such as retail account for a larger share of jobs.

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London, with its bias in favor of white collar workers, has lagged behind in the recovery in hiring. Although vacancies are also increasing in the capital, ONS customer tracking at Pret A Manger outlets reveals a clear shift from the City of London to the suburbs and cultural attractions of the West End.

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