Employers struggling to fill vacancies as Brexit impacts on candidate availability 0

If UK businesses are to remain competitive whoever wins the election on 8 June needs to invest in skills and career advice, as Brexit uncertainty means people are hesitating to move jobs, while there may be barriers in future to hiring workers from abroad; according to the latest research into the UK jobs market by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). The jobs market experienced the steepest drop in candidate availability for 16 months in April while demand for permanent and short-term staff remained high. Although growth in permanent starting salaries edged down to a four-month low in April, it remained sharp overall and stronger than the series average. Meanwhile, hourly pay rates for short-term staff increased at the sharpest pace in 2017 so far. Vacancies continued to rise markedly in April for both permanent and temporary/contract staff. This was despite growth in demand for both types of staff softening slightly since the previous month.

“Demand for staff is growing within all sectors and all regions of the UK, but there are fewer and fewer people available to fill the vacancies,” said REC Chief Executive Kevin Green.

“We have the lowest unemployment rate since 2005, and people already in work are becoming more hesitant about moving jobs amid Brexit uncertainty. Meanwhile, the weakening pound and lack of clarity about future immigration rules is putting off some EU nationals from taking up roles in the UK.

“As a result, candidate availability is at a 16-month low and recruiters are flagging a shortage of suitable applicants for more than 60 different roles from cleaner to accountant.”

Sector variation

The Markit/REC Report on Jobs provides the most comprehensive guide to the UK labour market, drawing on original survey data provided by recruitment consultancies. Its latest data pointed to divergent sector trends, with demand for staff rising sharply across the private sector, but declining across the public sector. Demand for private sector permanent and temporary staff rose sharply despite the rates of expansion easing to four- and three-month lows, respectively.

At the same time, vacancies for permanent public sector staff declined for the second month in a row, albeit slightly. Demand for public sector temporary workers meanwhile fell for the first time since January, though only slightly.

Engineering was the most in-demand category for permanent staff in April, closely followed by IT & Computing and Nursing/Medical/Care. Nonetheless, strong expansions were seen across the board at the start of the second quarter.

Continued Green: “Every shortage has wider implications, for example the exceptional reputation UK engineering enjoys globally is at risk because employers can’t find people with the skills they need.

“One thing is for certain, if British business is to thrive then whichever party forms a government after 8 June needs to address the ever-shrinking pool of suitable candidates by investing in skills and career advice for UK jobseekers, as well as safeguarding access to the workers we need from abroad. It is vital that the future immigration system is agile enough to reflect and adapt to evolving labour market needs.”