Last reviewed 19 October 2021

According to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the proportion of firms struggling to recruit staff has shown steep and sometimes record increases across most sectors.

With data derived from a survey of over 5600 firms, its latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook shows that 77% of those who attempted to recruit reported difficulties, a 7% rise on the second quarter (Q2).

Hardest hit was the hotels and catering sector where 92% of firms reported difficulties, with 75% of service sector firms also suffering, both the highest response rates on record for the dataset going back to 1997.

Among manufacturers 80% reported recruitment issues (71% in Q2), the highest proportion since 2018 and only one percentage point away from the all-time high for this indicator.

Consumer services firms (such as tradespeople, cleaning, and education) were the least likely to report difficulties at 69% but even this represents an eight-point rise from 61% in Q2, the BCC notes.

Of all respondents, 50% reported difficulties in hiring skilled technical staff, 45% managerial roles and 34% unskilled or semi-skilled workers.

BCC Head of People Policy Jane Gratton said: “Firms will want to see the new Supply Chain Taskforce, led by Sir David Lewis, moving quickly to implement solutions that will bring relief on the issue of labour shortages in the here and now.”

The former CEO of Tesco Sir David has been appointed by the Prime Minister to advise both on immediate improvements and any necessary long-term changes to UK supply chains for goods.

See for more details.

“Measures we would support include issuing adequate numbers of short-term visas for sectors facing acute shortages and adding more roles to the Shortage Occupation List”, Ms Gratton concluded.

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

The number of available jobs in the UK has soared to record levels, yet employment levels remain low.

This may be the ideal time for businesses to review their recruitment strategies and assess the best ways to appeal to new talent. The Government’s plans to extend the Kickstart and JETS Schemes will help reduce unemployment levels by supporting new workers to get a job.

Similarly, their efforts to hire more HGV drivers and extend visa schemes for foreign workers will ensure businesses remain open, allowing employees to continue working.

Without adequate supplies, it’s likely organisations may have to temporarily close or reduce opening hours. However, doing so will also negatively affect long-term employment, with workers choosing to apply for roles in different industries that can offer better job stability.