Jobs dry up as companies batten down hatches for second lockdown

A brief surge in hiring earlier in the autumn is already over as Britain braces for a double dip recession

Job vacancies are drying up as businesses cut back hiring in the face of tougher Covid restrictions and the upcoming lockdown.

Demand for workers had begun to recover in September, according to recruiters, but faded again last month.

Permanent staff placements fell in October, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation found, although firms increased advertising for temporary positions.

“With a reluctance to recruit permanent staff and a big increase in people available for work, the impending lockdown puts the UK jobs market in a precarious position,” said James Stewart at KPMG, which compiles the survey index along with the REC.

“While the furlough scheme extension may give a brief respite, it will fuel economic uncertainty and further dampen prospects for jobseekers, hitting hiring activity hard.”

Hotels and caterers are slashing hiring particularly hard, with anti-Covid measures targeting their industry.

Construction workers are also suffering from falling demand, as are people seeking secretarial and clerical, blue collar, and executive and professional jobs.

By contrast demand is still rising for medical staff, nurses and carers, as well as IT specialists, engineers and accountants.

At the same time the availability of staff is surging as workers are laid off and those leaving education join the workforce.

The combination of a high supply of workers but low demand from bosses means starting salaries are continuing to fall, as they have been since April.

The impact of sustained restrictions and repeated lockdowns is becoming clear on the high street.

More than 11pc of retail units are now empty, according to data company Springboard, the highest share since 2013.

Footfall on high streets at the end of October was down almost 40pc compared to the same time last year, with visits to shopping centres down one-third and retail parks almost 12pc.

Close to two-thirds of shoppers plan to spend less money this Christmas, with almost as many anticipating a rise in online shopping.

It means Springboard expects footfall in the most critical weeks of the retail calendar to be down around 80pc compared with last year.

Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry called on the Chancellor to spend more money on skills, innovation and infrastructure to help the economy recover.

This should include investment in zero carbon technologies, the business group said, as well as ‘productivity vouchers’ to encourage small businesses to invest in digital systems. 

“The pandemic has created huge economic challenges, and the crisis is far from over, yet the Government ought not to lose sight of the UK’s long-term priorities and the urgent need to deliver them on the ground,” said Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist.