UK retail faces labour shortage due to Brexit & Covid

Job cuts were at their lowest in seven years this August, according to data from the government's Insolvency Service,
The furlough scheme ends altogether at the end of September
// UK retailers struggling to hire staff amid an exodus of overseas workers due to Brexit & Covid-19
// There has been an 18% growth in hiring over the last six weeks, with almost 1m vacancies listed on jobs websites
// But since Feb 2020 the number of overseas job searches from western Europe & North America has halved

UK retailers are struggling to hire staff as lockdown restrictions continue to ease amidst an exodus of overseas workers because of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and recruitment firm Adecco, the reopening of retail and hospitality is driving plans to hire at the fastest rate in eight years.

However, the CIPD also found that there had been a rapid decline in the numbers of EU and international workers, fuelling the risk of labour shortages.


Adzuna highlighted an 18 per cent growth in hiring over the last six weeks, with almost one million vacancies listed on jobs websites for the retail, hospitality, events and leisure sectors.

However, it warned there had been a steep decline in overseas jobseeker interest.

According to Adzuna, since February 2020 the number of overseas job searches from western Europe and North America had halved – a decline of about 250,000.

“There is hot competition for staff, with many hospitality and retail workers having left the industry to look for more secure work after the ups and downs of the last year,” Adzuna co-founder Andrew Hunter said.

“There are also far fewer foreign workers seeking employment in the UK, with overseas interest in UK jobs more than halving from before the pandemic, hitting these industries hard.

“UK employers can no longer rely on overseas workers to plug employment gaps.”

Business leaders have warned the government that a lack of overseas workers after lockdown would put a “handbrake on the recovery”, with up to 1.3 million estimated to have left the UK since late 2019.

According to CIPD, the balance of employers expecting to add jobs, versus those planning to cut them, was 27 per cent for the current quarter, up from 11 per cent in the first three months of the year.

The CIPD said this was the highest level since February 2013.

Unemployment in the UK has stabilised in recent months, thanks to the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September.

The economy endured the fastest rise in redundancies on record late last year, before Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the wage support scheme.

The Bank of England expects the unemployment rate to peak at almost 5.5 per cent after furlough ends, lower than initial fears of a peak of 12 per cent in the 1980s.

Before the pandemic, unemployment stood at four per cent.

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