British job vacancies grew at the slowest pace in eight months in December, according to a survey of recruiters, but overall labour market conditions remained tight as many employers struggled to find staff.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said demand for staff had eased only slightly since record levels in the autumn of 2021. Staff absences due to the Omicron variant of coronavirus had boosted demand for temporary workers, especially in the healthcare sector.
“2022 will be the year we discover staff shortages will outlive the pandemic as an economic issue,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said.
“Demand for staff is growing across every sector and region of the UK, and candidate availability is still falling. These trends have been slowing for the past few months, but that is not surprising considering the record pace of change earlier,” he added.
Staff shortages and wage growth that appears faster than pre-pandemic rates are a large part of the reason why the Bank of England raised interest rates last month for the first time since the start of the pandemic, ahead of other central banks.
While the central bank expects factors such as rising energy prices that are pushing inflation to a 30-year high of around 6%will soon ease, it fears residual pressures will stop inflation falling back fully to its 2% target unless interest rates rise.
REC said starting salaries for permanent staff and hourly rates for temporary workers rose at close to the record pace seen earlier in 2021. Spending on temporary staff rose at the fastest rate in four months.
Official data for the three months to November showed 1.219 million job vacancies, a record high and around 50% more than before the pandemic.
“Employers in all sectors haven’t lost their appetite to hire, but many will be frustrated by the pressure these inflationary and competitive conditions, which are likely to continue for some time,” said Claire Warnes, head of education and skills at consultants KPMG, which sponsors the survey.
(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)