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Jobseeker market or employer’s pick of the crop?

Diane Hall


Man looking for job

It’s obvious that things are now moving in the recruitment industry, given that practically every sector has opened back up again. As mentioned in one of our earlier articles, the hospitality sector in particular can’t keep up with demand and is having trouble filling its vacancies. So, is it currently a jobseekers’ market?

Statistics show that the number of people unemployed today sits at 1.64 million. With so many out of work, wouldn’t you imagine that employers should have little problem finding new talent?

Depending on which report you read, it’s either a candidate-heavy market (ideal for employers), or there are not enough appropriately skilled jobseekers to go round and, as a result, there are unfilled vacancies everywhere you look.

Surely, it can’t be both, at the same time?

Well, it can, and that’s the current paradox we’re seeing.

Working from home computer.

Working from home computer.

I do think different sectors are responsible for the different stories. The industries that were closed during the pandemic—such as hospitality and leisure, retail, the travel industry, etc.—are possibly struggling because the people it employed decided that the hours and perks they received weren’t worth the pay they drew. Or they wanted a concrete income/career rather than the uncertainty lockdowns and furlough brought and chose alternative careers as the pandemic played out.

According to the BBC, ‘The number of vacancies hit 953,000 in the three months to July 2021, (via the Office for National Statistics). The unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in the three months to June, while the annual growth in average pay was 7.4%.’

To back up the claim that there are fewer people unemployed, I’ve seen plenty of threads across business and recruitment forums that detail the difficulties companies are facing to find the right people for the roles they have on offer. Some are really struggling; they’re comparing their current recruitment drives to ones they’ve run in the past and wondering what the heck they’re doing wrong.

The recent departure of foreign workers to their home countries, following Brexit, must be taken into account, too. This has contributed to the large number of vacancies in the hospitality and leisure sectors, as well as the food production industry.

Despite the plethora of empty roles resulting from this exodus, there are still 1.64 million people out there without a job, so why are these jobseekers not connecting with the companies desperate to fill their vacancies? Is it that British workers expect better pay and conditions than their EU counterparts? Are the people currently unemployed appropriately skilled to take on the jobs that are empty?

If you read this article about the HGV driver crisis, poor pay, long hours and a failure to attract younger workers into the sector has finally come to fruition—Brexit and Covid have only exacerbated the fallout that has been on the cards for decades. Perhaps this situation is playing out in other industries, too.

The Guardian agrees with me. They say, ‘Employment experts believe people are being put off from work in certain sectors that have developed reputations for low pay and poor conditions in recent years, and that concerns over continuing high rates of Covid-19 are also having an impact.

‘Sustained labour shortages could lead employers to push up wages, which could in turn feed through to rising inflation if companies raise their prices to accommodate higher wage bills. However, there is debate about whether bottleneck pressures as the economy reopens from lockdown will translate into a permanently tighter jobs market.’

The issue is clearly complex, with many variants. If you look at the number of working age people who are unemployed, it would certainly suggest that there are plenty of candidates to fill all the vacancies on offer, but this can’t be the case if recruiters/employers are facing such difficulties. In some sectors, it probably is a jobseekers’ market, like the hospitality sector. But when it comes to highly-skilled roles or jobs that have long been seen as unattractive, it doesn’t matter how many people are drawing jobseekers’ allowance, they’re not going to apply for these positions.

These sectors must drill down deeper into the issues that are stopping people snapping up the jobs on offer.

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