Brexit: Number of job vacancies hits more than two-year high as talent exodus bites

‘Businesses can only grow if they have access the people and skills they need,’ said REC CEO Kevin Green

Josie Cox
Business Editor
Friday 08 September 2017 07:15 BST
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Official figures last month showed that net migration to the UK fell by a quarter to 246,000 in the year after the referendum, as EU citizens fled Britain
Official figures last month showed that net migration to the UK fell by a quarter to 246,000 in the year after the referendum, as EU citizens fled Britain (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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The number of job vacancies across the UK hit its highest level since April 2015 in August, as a fall in net migration after last year’s Brexit vote begins to eat into the labour force.

Figures from the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC) and IHS Markit published on Friday show that growth in staff vacancies accelerated to identically sharp levels last month, across both permanent and temporary roles.

Meanwhile, the size of average permanent starting salaries accelerated for the fourth consecutive month, underscoring that employers are having to increase incentives to get top talent on board.

“There are two trends at play,” said REC chief executive Kevin Green. “Businesses are seeking more professional and managerial capability, so we’re seeing high demand for roles like financial directors, analysts, and compliance and HR professionals.

“Meanwhile, there is a significant shortage of people to fill blue collar roles such as drivers, electricians, and construction workers, and this is being exacerbated by a fall in net migration from the EU.”

Official figures last month showed that net migration to the UK fell by a quarter to 246,000 in the year after the referendum, as EU citizens fled Britain. The number has sparked concerns of a “brain drain”, especially across the services industry and certain manufacturing professions.

Recent reports have shown that the food and drink industry would struggle to operate in its current form if the Government fails to implement assurances that would stem the outflow of EU nationals.

“We already have a shortage of workers this summer,” Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits (the industry body which accounts for 97 per cent of all berries supplied to UK supermarkets), said earlier this month.

“We really need government to understand the urgency of getting a system in place. We know the government have recognised the issue, but they need to work faster.”

The construction and car sectors are also highly dependent on labourers from abroad.

Mr Green said that higher starting salaries reflected in Friday’s data would likely be welcomed by individuals, but that companies are will be concerned about the sustainability of this trend.

“Businesses can only grow if they have access the people and skills they need,” he said. “It is essential that the Government recognises this by developing an evidence-based immigration system that will support the economy.”

Friday’s survey also showed that the number of people being placed into permanent job roles continued to rise in August. Temporary billings also rose markedly, staying at a 29-month high reached in July.

The increase in permanent placements was greatest in the Midlands and the North of England. London showed only a marginal rate of expansion. It represented the slowest of all monitored regions.

By sectors, demand for public sector staff was less marked than private sector, but was nonetheless steep. Growth in demand for temporary public workers continued to outstrip that for permanent workers in the sector.

Demand for temporary or contract staff was highest in blue collar jobs. Demand was also particularly high in the engineering sector and in nursing and medical care.

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