Increasing numbers are being impacted by redundancy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Image credit: Pxhere
The UK is facing a “recruitment crisis”, experts have warned, as new research reveals there were as many as ten jobseekers for each vacancy in some areas of the country.
On average there were 2.2 people claiming unemployed benefit competing for each vacancy in June 2021, according to analysis by job search engine Adzuna and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) – almost double the rate of 1.2 per role before the pandemic in March 2020.
Almost 100 local authorities had five jobseekers going for each role available, researchers found, rising to almost ten in 30 of the worst affected areas.
“Since the turn of the year we’ve gone from talking about an unemployment crisis to a recruitment crisis,” IES director Tony Wilson.
“But the reality is that we’re facing a bit of both – with many firms struggling to fill jobs at the same time that more than two million people are struggling to find work. These problems are particularly acute in many of those areas that were faring worse before the crisis began and that are most in need of support as we come out of it.”
The jobs market has shown signs of recovery as Covid-19 restrictions have eased. The Office for National Statistics revealed in June that the unemployment rate had fallen to 4.7 per cent between February and April, down from a high of 5.1 per cent between October and December 2020. The number of vacancies had almost returned to pre-pandemic levels: the 758,000 vacancies were recorded between March and May 2021 was only 27,000 below the level seen in the months before the pandemic.
In the last week alone, Adzuna reportedly recorded a surge in the number of vacancies with over 300,000 new job adverts placed online.
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The findings are no surprise to Heather O’Donnell. The 29-year-old, from Glasgow, was working as an assistant manager in a cafe when the pandemic struck and ended up unemployed and claiming universal credit by April 2020.
O’Donnell, who has qualifications in journalism and a master’s degree in English Literature, decided to retrain to teach English as a foreign language and planned to head to Japan for a teaching role in March 2021 but was forced to delay plans for a year due to Covid-19.
She has spent the three months applying for more than 60 jobs in journalism, copywriting and hospitality across Glasgow and Edinburgh and even moved to Dundee to help her job search. She told The Big Issue that she has been beaten to entry level positions by workers with more experience.
“I’ve had constant rejections but the feedback from interviews has been really apologetic basically saying we’ve gone for someone with more experience,” said O’Donnell. “These are entry level jobs that I’m going for so I think what is really difficult is that in the past what I’ve got has been enough to get a job like this.
“Unfortunately there are so many applicants that they go with the person with the most experience. I went for a job at a cafe and got pipped to the post. I thought when it comes down to a slightly more defined latte it’s pretty demoralising.”
O’Donnell faces the dilemma of the need to secure work to pay bills versus the need to continue securing relevant experience for her long-term career.
She added: “If I do just take a generic customer-facing job somewhere, it just feels like, at this point, whatever I’m doing it should really be building towards something that’s focusing on my professional skills.”
Paul Bovey, 41, from Rugby, has also been surviving on universal credit after he was initially furloughed from a printing firm specialising in the arts before being made redundant in November 2020.
After calling on friends for financial support to help him through the Christmas period, Bovey has been applying for roles in copywriting and proofreading but has found even simple roles hard to come by.
The rejections have taken their toll, he told The Big Issue.
“if you try to go for a job which is temporary or below your skill level, such as an administration job, they don’t tend to want to employ you because they’re worried that you’re going to leave,” said Bovey.
I feel like I have impostor syndrome. I’ve got 12 years’ experience of proofreading but I feel like: ‘Was I just winging it?’ Especially when you’re going for these jobs and you’re not even getting a reply or an interview.”
This week the UK government revealed 36,000 16-to-24 year-olds on universal credit had taken roles through the Kickstart Scheme. The scheme is part of ministers’ Plan for Jobs alongside the Restart Scheme targeted at universal credit claimants who have been out of work for at least 12 months.
A government spokesperson told The Big Issue: “Our multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs is helping people right across the country to retrain, get into work, and develop the skills they need now and for the future.”
Both Adzuna and IES have warned of a “timebomb” of labour shortages, higher inflation and long-term unemployment unless unemployed workers are given the right training to take up roles.
“Many of the people currently out of work aren’t matching up to the jobs on offer, despite an acute talent shortage,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna.
“Looking ahead, we may see another spike in jobseekers when furlough wraps up in September as some employers won’t be able to afford to keep existing staff on. Upskilling and retraining will be crucial to ensure this talent flows where it’s needed.”
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