Responding to the latest labour market data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), says:
“The continued increase in employment rates between August and October show that the labour market remains tight in the UK despite the fall in vacancies noted between September and November. The data shows that job levels remain significantly higher than pre-Covid levels, with the three months to November seeing 391,000 more vacancies than the three months before the pandemic (January to March 2020). This suggests that the downward trend in recruitment is, in fact, the market continuing to stabilise post-Covid, rather than contract in a tough economy.
“When we look into the statistics in more detail, it is industries such as accommodation, food services and retail – all of which have noted difficulties as the Cost-of-Living crisis continues to tighten purse strings across the country – which have been hardest hit. However, sectors requiring highly skilled and trained individuals such as Construction have reported increases in vacancies between August and November. These sectors struggled to hire on the scale needed throughout 2022 as a combination of the Great Rehiring and the loss of international talent pools in a post-Brexit environment continue to impact worker availability and this latest data suggests that talent shortages are very much still acute.
“It is the demand from across the health and social work sector which raises significant concern given the current unrest in the workforce. The sector reported the greatest spike in vacancies in the three months to November. With nurse strikes beginning amid pay disputes, health and social work is facing a concerning dearth of talent that won’t be rectified by pay increases alone. There needs to be a fundamental re-think around how talent is sourced into the sector as well. The current inflexibility around framework requirements will only continue to limit the available pool of workers, which will exacerbate both the reliance on agency staff to fill immediate gaps and budget restraints.
“While the UK’s economy is facing continued uncertainty, we’re facing a recession where skills shortages are still prevalent in a number of sectors. The country’s labour market is in need of support to become more appealing both to flexible workers and international experts. The long-awaited Employment Bill will have a role to play in supporting this, but we also feel that the skills agenda needs to be reinvigorated across Government. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement revealed some steps to help bolster the UK’s skills, but action is needed swiftly if businesses are to have access to the staff they need to bounce back strong from a recession.”