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Jobs crisis continues as vacancies top 1 million for second month in a row

·2-min read
A woman looking into the window of a job centre (Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Archive)
A woman looking into the window of a job centre (Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Archive)

Britain’s jobs crisis shows no sign of easing, with new data pointing to a continued mismatch between demand for staff and workers.

Data from the Office for National Statistics, published on Tuesday, showed vacancies across the UK economy remain above 1 million. Open job postings rose by just over 300,000 to 1.1 million. Vacancies across the economy passed 1 million for the first time in history last month.

Demand for workers came despite a jump in payroll as companies fill roles. The number of payroll employees showed another monthly increase of 207,000 to hit a record high of 29.2 million in September. The number of people on the national payroll passed pre-pandemic levels for the first time since Covid-19 struck.

The unemployment rate dipped by 0.1 percentage point to 4.5%, as had been predicted by City analysts. Wage growth cooled to 6%, although that was a touch higher than analysts had forecast.

The fact that vacancies remain elevated even as companies fill open roles and grow the payroll will alarm economists.

Businesses and business leaders including Next boss Lord Wolfson have been warning that the UK faces a serious shortfall in workers and pleading with government to offer short-term visas to help plug the gaps. Downing Street has so far largely refused, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying businesses were using immigration as an “excuse”.

Matthew Percival, CBI programme director for skills & inclusion, said: “Companies have found hiring difficult this autumn and the official data is beginning to tell the same story, with the number of people on payroll exceeding pre-Covid highs and record vacancies.”

Vacancies are above pre-pandemic levels across all sectors of the economy, with demand increasing most in the hotel and food services sector.

Kitty Usher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “We are starting to see a vacancy paradox in the jobs market: record-high job adverts but still more people unemployed than there were before the pandemic. The answer appears to be that those people seeking work do not have the skills or availability that employers need.”

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