‘Great resignation’ sees record number of job vacancies

Unemployment fell to 4.2% in latest government figures

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Data released today from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests signs of a continued recovery in the labour market – despite the end of the multibillion-pound furlough scheme in September 2021.

UK job vacancies hit 1.21m for the three months to the end of October – the highest number on record. That’s an increase of 434,500 from its previous pre-Covid level in March 2020.

This is, in part, a result of what the media has dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’ as thousands of workers take advantage of the post-Covid economic recovery effort and switch companies or industries to look for different work arrangements and perks that match their preferences.

What does this mean for your business?

While this uptick in the number of jobseekers seems positive on paper, mass resignations could create problems for more specialist industries.

Last month, we reported on the growing hiring crisis and the difficulties small businesses currently face in attracting top talent to their workforce.

According to Reed.co.uk*, the sectors with the highest number of vacancies are:

  • IT & Telecoms – 25.7k
  • Education – 25k
  • Social Care – 24.5k
  • Transport & Logistics – 19.2k
  • Customer Service – 17.8k

Many of these industries require a very specific skill set that is making it hard for businesses to attract staff. The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has warned that economic recovery in the New Year is at risk if appropriate action isn’t taken to address the skills shortages facing the UK.

Global recruitment firm Robert Half, in its 2022 Salary Guide, found half of senior business leaders think it will be harder to find talent with the right skills in 2022.

Want to know more about how you can attract and retain the best employees for your business? Read our guide to the top HR software solutions for small businesses.

But the new figures are encouraging for sectors such as hospitality, which have had to make do with massively reduced staffing numbers since lockdown restrictions were lifted earlier in the year.

Pawel Adrjan, economist at digital job board Indeed, says the labour market report shows the jobs market is in rude health. Adrjan commented: “By almost every measure, things were heading in the right direction in November and the ending of the furlough scheme had barely slowed its progress.

“Things are running so hot that the number of vacancies being created is in many cases outstripping the number of people available to do the work. The UK now has over 1.2 million unfilled vacancies, and as the unemployment rate continues to fall we now have the tightest labour market on record – at just 1.2 unemployed people per vacancy.

“Indeed’s data, which captures employers’ demand for staff in real-time, shows job posting growth may be stalling. As of last Friday 10th December, postings on Indeed were still 47.3% higher than before the pandemic – but that’s a decline of 0.3% compared to the previous week, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

“As the Omicron variant takes hold and MPs vote on a new set of Covid restrictions, many sectors that have been doing particularly well this year – from hospitality to high street retail – will be deeply worried that their progress could be abruptly halted.”

How are small businesses reacting to the hiring crisis?

Lots of companies are now asking themselves how they can attract and retain workers as demand grows for specific talents and skill sets.

Some firms have resorted to HR consultants to get expert advice on how to optimise their recruitment and make the process easier and more enjoyable for job seekers and employees.

You should also take note of what prospective candidates are currently looking for. Twenty-one months of working from home has awoken a greater desire for work-life balance amongst job seekers. Look into your current office perks and incentives packages to provide things like gym memberships, or more flexible hours for childcare.

Rob Hilton is CEO of PixelMax, a 3D tech innovation company which we featured as one of our top 100 startups in 2021.

He said: “The world has rapidly changed in the last 12 months [which] has dramatically impacted on the workplace and employee culture in terms of engagement, productivity, well-being and work-life balance.

“Right now, we have a huge skills and talent shortage; talent acquisition and retention very much dominate corporate culture. Nobody wants to return to a monotonous culture of working remotely on Zoom or Teams all day. The experience needs to be enriching and engaging, which in turn boosts productivity, engagement and output. It also has to have a positive impact on employee well-being and mental health.”

Read our full guide for more information on how to recruit staff in a hiring crisis.

*Data from Reed.co.uk

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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