The latest labour market statistics show that the underlying state of the UK jobs market continues to look more like the pre-pandemic picture. Employment is up sharply, unemployment is down and vacancies continue to climb above one million - reaching a 20-year high. However, the figures mask a sharp increase in temporary workers, a sharp fall in the number of self-employed and a relatively high economic inactivity rate (21.1%).

Responding to today’s ONS figures, Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development comments:

"The latest figures suggest that many of the rising labour shortages may be temporary. Virtually all of the extra jobs that have been created since the onset of the pandemic are for temporary staff (up by 136,000), which represents another five-year high. As a result, involuntary temporary employment remains relatively high (up by 134,000 or 34% since the pandemic). This has adversely affected women, who account for the majority of the increase (up by 82,000 or 41%). This growth in ‘contract working’ is mainly due to an uncertain business environment and the need to fill temporary shortages caused by self-isolation. This may also partly explain why inactivity rates remain relatively high.

Davies continues, “While some employers have got better at sourcing labour from the domestic workforce through higher wages and upskilling in some cases, it is also true that more applicants would be attracted to roles if employers also offered better employment conditions. This would ideally include permanent contracts and the possibility of promotion, especially in low-paying sectors, where this is viable. 

“The recruitment challenges that employers are facing, paired with job vacancies hitting a 20-year high, highlights the importance of changes to skills policy to help organisations train new recruits if they don’t initially have the right skills. The Apprenticeship Levy should be reformed into a more flexible training levy to support employer investment in skills and engagement with the further education system. The Kickstart scheme should also be extended to the end of 2022.” 

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