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Firms struggling to fill Christmas job vacancies

Written by: Emma Lunn
The UK is suffering a shortage of seasonal workers as firms fail to tempt temporary workers for the festive season.

According to jobs site Indeed, nearly a third fewer candidates are searching for seasonal jobs this year, compared to the same periods in 2019 and 2018. Candidate interest in Christmas jobs is up just 11% on October 2020, when Britain was in the grip of the pandemic’s second wave.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK had a record high 1.1 million vacancies in the three months to October 2021, meaning jobseekers are spoilt for choice.

Indeed’s research reveals the huge challenge faced by employers battling to hire extra staff in the run-up to Christmas. As of 1 October 2021, Christmas jobs’ share of all roles posted on Indeed was down by 33% on their 2019 level and 27% shy of their 2018 level. Compared to last October, they are up by 24%.

Candidate interest in Christmas jobs was up 11% on the numbers seen in October 2020, but last year’s figure was kept exceptionally low by a second wave of the pandemic that forced the closure of much of the economy.

Comparison with 2020 also reveals how this year employers have different types of worker on their Christmas lists. While retail and sales staff remain the most in-demand, 2020’s locked down Christmas saw employers particularly keen to hire warehouse staff and drivers as seasonal shopping moved online.

Now the reopened economy has triggered an uptick in demand for face-to-face workers such as sales assistants – who currently account for 45% of seasonal vacancies – and food servers.

Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed, said: “With retailers and logistics firms already warning that supply shortages could lead to empty shelves this Christmas, our analysis reveals just what employers who rely on seasonal staff are up against.

“In some ways the labour market has become a victim of its own success. After months of generating jobs, there are now more than 1.1m vacancies across the UK. Jobseekers are currently spoilt for choice, and our real-time data shows they are less interested than usual in seasonal Christmas jobs. With candidate searches for Christmas jobs still down roughly a third on where they were at this point in 2018 and 2019, the supply of people is simply not keeping up with employer demand.

“Labour shortages are being felt across the economy, both by employers looking for permanent recruits as well as those who want temporary staff. There is still time for things to improve, but as we approach the peak Christmas hiring season, the squeeze is particularly painful in the parts of the retail sector that depend on Christmas for the bulk of their sales. For them the risk of empty staff rooms is just as severe as the risk of empty shelves.”

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