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UK retailers facing record staff shortages

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

13 Oct 2021

Retail

Image: We're hiring

UK retailers are facing a worker shortage as the number of job vacancies in the UK has hit a record high.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed vacancies soared to 1.1 million between July and September, the highest level since records began in 2001.

The largest increase in vacancies was in the retail sector and in motor vehicle repair, said the ONS.

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, told the BBC that labour market shortages “could stunt” the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. “The recovery is testing the capacity of the economy to adjust to a new post-pandemic environment, a task made more difficult by the reduced availability of overseas workers,” she said.

“Acute skill shortages have pushed vacancies to record levels for a second month in a row in September, as employers struggled to find skilled staff.”

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.5 percent, compared with a rate of 4 percent before the pandemic.

Last month the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned labour supply problems affecting UK could last for up to two years. According to the Financial Times officials have told businesses they should use British workers, including those coming off furlough, rather than expect rules to change to temporarily allow in EU workers who had filled these positions in the past.

A report released by accountancy and advisory firm BDO shows the shortage of staffing is affecting all parts of the economy, but putting “severe pressure” on medium-sized business across the UK.

The survey, which polled over 500 businesses, showed companies are failing to operate at ‘normal’ levels due to the lack of staff. Compounded by supply chain issues and lack of stock, many are facing challenges not previously foreseen by Brexit.