Vacancies top one million for the first time, official figures show

But businesses are urged to ‘bite the bullet’ and hire more staff on permanent contracts in order to start filling roles

Vacancies top one million for the first time, official figures show

Employers need to start hiring more people on permanent contracts, the CIPD has said, as the latest official figures show job vacancies have grown to a record high.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown the overall number of vacancies rose to just over 1 million between June and August this year: the first time figures have reached this milestone since records began in 2001.

This was an increase of 269,300, or 35.2 per cent, on the previous quarter, with all sectors seeing an increase in the number of vacancies.

The figures also showed a monthly increase in payroll employment by 241,000 to 29 million in August, a return to pre-coronavirus levels, and a drop in unemployment by 0.3 percentage points since the previous quarter.

Between June and August, the number of temporary workers in employment also rose to a five-year high (1.63 million), the figures found. However, around a third of those workers (32.1 per cent) said they couldn’t find a permanent job.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, said this sharp increase in temporary employment suggested there was more employers could do to address rising labour shortages, and urged firms to hire more people on permanent contracts.

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“Candidates want more than a job; they also want some level of security after such an uncertain period,” he said. “Rather than sitting on the fence, we need employers to bite the bullet and make more permanent hires where they can, to give candidates confidence and to fill the huge number of vacancies out there.”

Despite the positive employment figures, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, called for caution, He warned of a growing risk of unemployment over the next couple of months, and said more than 150,000 more people may be out of work by early next year, with peak unemployment rates of 5.1 per cent.

“Record vacancies highlight the acute hiring crisis faced by many firms. With Brexit and Covid driving a more deep-seated decline in labour supply, the end of furlough is unlikely to be a silver bullet to the ongoing shortages,” Thiru said.  

These recruitment difficulties were likely to dampen the recovery, he warned, and while peak unemployment was likely to be lower than previous downturns, rising cost pressures could “stifle firms’ recruitment intentions”.

“A notable rise in job losses as furlough ends remains probable,” Thiru added.

The end of the furlough scheme should be a reminder to employers that they should train new workers who have been furloughed to ensure they have the right skills for their new jobs, said Davies. 

“This will also be particularly important for younger workers who have been adversely affected by the pandemic and need early chances to get their working lives off on the right foot,” he said.