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UK firms seek staff after lockdown but foreign workers missing - survey

·3-min read

LONDON (Reuters) -British businesses ramped up their search for new staff as pubs, restaurants and other hospitality and travel firms got ready for Monday's lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England, a survey showed.

But an exodus of foreign workers is aggravating a shortage of candidates, with more than 10 jobs on offer for every job-seeker in some cities, according to the survey by job search website Adzuna.

Job adverts on Adzuna jumped to 987,800 in the first week of May, up by 18% from the end of March, which was before the reopening of non-essential retailers and hospitality firms for outdoor service on April 12.

A further lifting of restrictions to allow pub and restaurants to serve customers indoors takes place in England on Monday.

Adzuna said companies seeking to hire included pub firms Whitbread, Stonegate Pub Company and JD Wetherspoons, restaurant chains Nando's and Pizza Express, Marriott hotels and airline Ryanair.

However, a lot of workers had given up on looking for hospitality and retail jobs in favour of more secure work after three lockdowns in the past year, it said.

"There are also far fewer foreign workers seeking employment in the UK with overseas interest in UK jobs more than halving from before the pandemic, hitting these industries hard," Andrew Hunter, a co-founder of Adzuna, said.

Adzuna said 250,000 fewer job-seekers from western Europe and North America applied for work in the United Kingdom per month between February and April than before pre-pandemic.

"UK employers can no longer rely on overseas workers to plug employment gaps," Hunter said.

A combination of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic are believed to have cut the number of foreign workers in Britain.

Britain's statistics office estimates the number of non-UK nationals employed in the country in the last three months of 2020 fell by 4.0% from the same period of 2019 to 4.22 million, based on tax data, compared with a 2.6% fall for UK nationals to 24.0 million.

Adzuna said there were 13 jobs on offer for each job-seeker in Manchester while the ratio in Cambridge and Oxford stood at 11. In Maidstone, southeast England, there were 20 jobs for every job-seeker.

The shortage of workers is not unique to Britain. Hospitality firms in parts of the United States have said their holiday seasons are threatened by a lack of staff, echoing recent problems in Australia.

A feared surge in job losses in Britain has not happened, thanks largely to a massive public jobs subsidy scheme. That furlough scheme is due to be phased out over the summer before ending in September.

A separate survey showed British employers were the most optimistic about hiring since 2013 and basic pay expectations were set to increase from 1% to 2% in the next 12 months.

The survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development of more than 1,000 employers also found that redundancy intentions had returned to pre-pandemic levels.

"Despite the evident optimism in this quarter’s survey, it remains likely that such strong employment growth will soften during the course of 2021," said Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD.

(Writing by William SchombergEditing by David Milliken and Louise Heavens)

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