Quarterly Recruitment Outlook: Hiring Difficulties Easing But Significant Concerns Persist

24th April 2024

The latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook (QRO), a survey of more than 4,600 UK firms of all sectors and sizes, by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Insights Unit, reveals hiring problems have eased.

  • Businesses report recruitment conditions have eased, with fewer firms facing difficulties in hiring 
  • 66% of responding firms say they’ve faced challenges finding staff, the lowest percentage in three years
  • Companies in the production and manufacturing sector are the most likely to report challenges in hiring staff (70%)
  • 62% of companies attempted to recruit in the quarter ??

The latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook (QRO), a survey of more than 4,600 UK firms of all sectors and sizes, by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Insights Unit, reveals hiring problems have eased.  

The first quarter results for 2024 show that 62% of respondents said they had attempted to recruit in the last three months, slightly up from 59% in Q4 2023. Of these firms, fewer reported recruitment difficulties, 66% compared with 76% in Q4 of last year. It’s the first quarter the figure has fallen below 70% since the economy reopened post-pandemic (Q2 2021).  

Production and manufacturing firms are bearing the brunt of the staffing issues, with 70% of businesses reporting hiring problems in Q1. However, that’s down from 77% in the final quarter of last year. In both the construction/engineering and transport/logistics sectors, 69% of firms said they had experienced recruitment difficulties, while the hospitality sector reported 64%.  

Of the manufacturing firms reporting problems, 70% faced challenges finding skilled manual/technical staff, and 35% semi/unskilled workers.  

As businesses continue to face unpredictable economic conditions, the majority are struggling to increase investment in workplace training. For the third quarter in succession, just over a quarter of businesses (26%) reported an increase in staff training investment, with 12% reporting a drop, compared to 14% in Q4 2023. 

Responding to the findings, Jane Gratton, Deputy Director Public Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce said: 

“It’s welcome that the recruitment picture is improving and the percentage of firms reporting difficulties is at its lowest level for three years. This comes as other indicators show the labour market is cooling.  

“However, with 66% of firms still facing hiring challenges, the problems remain significant. Too many employers are struggling to find people with the skills they need to fill job vacancies. That’s damaging business opportunities and growth. 

“The growing number of people not looking for work, or out of action because of long-term health issues, is exacerbating the skills problem. More needs to be done to tackle the issues behind this worrying trend and help people back into the workforce. 

“We need a long-term industrial strategy, underpinned by better skills planning and more investment in training. That needs to happen nationally, locally and in every business.  We need to support everyone who wants to work to achieve their potential. Doing that will help tackle skills shortages – improving growth and opportunities in local economies across the UK.” 

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