Last reviewed 14 October 2021

The latest labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a second month with a record number of vacancies, now at more than a third above their pre-pandemic levels.

However, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has highlighted “very real difficulties” under the overall numbers, with labour and skill gaps, rising cost pressures and an increasingly onerous tax burden.

In addition, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has suggested that the figures mask a sharp increase in temporary workers and a sharp fall in the number of self-employed.

According to Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, virtually all of the extra jobs that have been created since the onset of the pandemic are for temporary staff (up by 136,000).

“As a result,” he went on, “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%).”

Also responding to the latest labour market figures, independent think tank the Resolution Foundation pointed out that the employment rate of 75.3% in the three months to August was still 1.3 percentage points down on pre-pandemic levels, while over a million workers were furloughed during this period.

Record vacancy levels and hiring rates in September (when 821,000 people started a new job) also bode well for the million workers coming off furlough in October, the Foundation argues, and should help limit any increases in unemployment.

Nye Cominetti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Though wage growth looks almost unbelievably strong right now, there are big questions over whether it will remain strong enough over the coming months to prevent real wages from falling this winter”.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

It is clear from these statistics that employers are struggling to fill roles that they likely desperately need filled in order to help with their recovery from the depths of the pandemic.

That these roles are largely temporary suggests a cautious approach is being taken, without the commitment of permanent employment, and are likely only going to be stop gap for those taking these roles, as they search for a more permanent position.