Businesses start hiring again

Official statistics and survey evidence have highlighted a sharp rise in the number of job vacancies, as renewed business optimism encourages more firms to resume hiring.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of job vacancies rose by 8% in the February-to-April period compared with the previous quarter, with an estimated 657,000 unfilled vacancies. Experimental data being trialled by the ONS also suggests that vacancies for April alone were almost back to pre-pandemic levels, as the rapid vaccine rollout and lockdown easing encouraged employers to recruit more workers.

Survey evidence points to a continuation of this trend, with KPMG research showing that demand for workers in May grew at its fastest rate in over 23 years. Meanwhile, a study conducted by Sage also highlights the strength of hiring intentions, with a third of SMEs saying they expect to hire in 2021, potentially creating around 1.2 million further jobs.

There are, however, growing concerns that this surge in vacancies could lead to a staffing crisis over the summer due to a shortage of workers. Hospitality and events firms in particular are reporting severe recruitment difficulties, partly due to EU workers returning home because of Brexit and the pandemic.