Quarterly Recruitment Outlook – 70 per cent face difficulty finding staff as workforce growth expectations surge

July 8, 2021

The British Chambers of Commerce today released the results of its Quarterly Recruitment Outlook survey for Q2 2021, with responses drawn from over 5,700 firms. The new figures show a surge in the proportion of firms expecting to grow their workforce in the next three months, as well as a notable rise from the previous quarter in the proportion who attempted to recruit. However, the data also shows the proportion of those who had difficulty in finding staff climb significantly.

Attempted recruitment during Q2 was up on previous quarters, with even sectors which have been harder hit during the pandemic, such as hotels and catering, seeing rises. 52 per cent of respondents overall attempted to recruit in Q2, up from 40 per cent in Q1. 51 per cent of hotel and catering firms attempted to recruit in the quarter, up from only 20 per cent in Q1. The sectors with the highest proportion of firms attempting to recruit were production and manufacturing at 64 per cent and construction at 63 per cent, these were up from 50 per cent and 54 per cent respectively in the previous quarter.

Recruitment difficulties

Of those attempting to recruit, the percentage of firms facing recruitment difficulties rose sharply for the second consecutive quarter – to 70 per cent, up from 63 per cent in Q1, itself a steep rise from 53 per cent in Q4 2020. The sector with the highest proportion of firms reporting difficulties was construction at 82 per cent, followed closely by hotels and catering at 76 per cent. Of respondents in production and manufacturing, 68 per cent reported difficulties in recruitment. Consumer services firms were the least likely to report difficulties but even in that sector the proportion facing issues was 61 per cent.

Of the firms facing difficulties, the types of roles they struggled to fill, varied by sector. High proportions of respondents from construction and production and manufacturing firms both expressed difficulty in filling skilled technical roles, 65 per cent and 62 per cent respectively. However, 42 per cent of production and manufacturing respondents also expressed difficulty filling un-skilled roles, while 53 per cent of construction firms said the same of managerial roles.

Amongst retail firms 43 per cent cited issues with skilled roles, 39 per cent with managerial jobs and 35 per cent with un-skilled roles. For professional services and marketing and media firms the difficulties were overwhelmingly with managerial roles, cited by 69 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

Growth expectations

38 per cent of businesses surveyed said they expected to grow their workforce in the next three months, an 11-point rise from the previous quarter. 57 per cent expected their workforce to remain the same size and only five per cent expected a decrease, a drop from nine per cent in Q1. The sector with the highest proportion expecting workforce growth was construction at 51 per cent, up from 34 per cent in Q1. 39 per cent of production and manufacturing firms reported expecting growth, a significant rise from 27 per cent in the previous quarter. The proportion of hotel and catering firms reporting expected growth rose sharply to 40 per cent with only six per cent expecting a reduction, up from 26 per cent in the last quarter with 14 per cent who expected to reduce their workforce.

Responding to the findings, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, Jane Gratton said: “As firms are released from lockdown restrictions, the skills and labour shortages they experienced before the pandemic are once again starting to bite.  The encouraging increase in job creation across the manufacturing and services sectors is being held back by recruitment difficulties at all skill levels, jeopardising growth and productivity.

“Whether people have found work in a different sector, changed their working patterns, or left the UK during the recession, firms are now struggling to find the people they need.  It’s vital that business, government and the skills system work together to find solutions.

“Adopting more remote and flexible working patterns will help firms attract skills from a wider talent pool. But we also need access to rapid and agile training and reskilling opportunities for adults in the workforce, alongside a flexible and cost-effective immigration system that ensures fast access to skills when these can’t be recruited locally.”