More businesses re-opening has helped increase demand for goods and services with significantly rises in activity over the last few months. Yorkshire was top of the regional optimism rankings in June highlighting strong business confidence.
The latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows UK employment rates up and unemployment rates down which is promising news as the country continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data should calm fears that the ending of government support measures such as the furlough scheme could send unemployment higher.
Richard Topliss, Chairman of NatWest North Regional Board, said: “Out of the 12 monitored UK regions, Yorkshire & Humber was just one of two where activity growth actually accelerated on the previous month. Supporting the latest expansion was a further strong improvement in demand conditions, which firms linked to loosening lockdown restrictions.”
Manufacturing sectors continue to see considerable demand – examples of these growing sectors include metals, textiles, machinery, chemicals and electrical equipment. On the services side we see computing & IT, financial and business-to-business services recording strong output in the region.
It is hard to determine if the increase demand for goods and services is a direct result of pent up demand or a long-term effect from the lockdown.
Demand for skills
Skills shortages have been an area of concern for a number of years and one that is now exacerbated by the effects the pandemic. Job vacancies have hit a record high according to the latest statistics from ONS and this is certainly concerning as experts have already expressed concern on staff shortages for a variety of sectors.
Accountants, manufacturers, drivers and engineers top the list of skill shortages along with IT & computing which includes software engineers and developers.
Another area that isn’t talked about enough is the sudden loss of migrant labour as a consequence of Brexit referendum in 2016. Migrant workers have played a large role in the UK labour market in recent decades but figures show that net migration has fallen by almost three quarters in the last five years.
Hospitality, transport, admin, cleaning, health and social work are just some of the sectors that have historically been migrant reliant and will need to adjust to the changing climate by enticing new workers into these roles, investing in automation or introducing new business models to change how they operate.
Data from the CIPD’s quarterly Labour Market Outlook indicates that over two thirds of Yorkshire employers plan to take on new staff in the next three months.
In addition, for those hard to fill positions we see that the majority of businesses would prefer to upskill their existing staff, followed by hiring more apprentices and raising wages.
In the hospitality, arts and entertainment sector there has been a significant rise in employers looking to hire compared with the outlook last summer.
Brian Stahelin, Joint Managing Director at Stafflex commented: “More organisations are getting back to normal as the lockdown restrictions are lifted but the effects of COVID-19 are still hanging around and causing severe disruption.
“We have seen that in some businesses more than 16% of the workforce have been unavailable due to contracting the virus or isolating following a ping by the NHS app. The disruption is enormous and we probably won’t get a clear picture of the impact until sometime after the furlough scheme ends.”
“Another important consideration is the complexity of the documentation required to export into Europe, which if not looked at, could have huge implications for the industry. What would happen if importing goods is no longer a viable option then are we going to start manufacturing the products ourselves? Perhaps we will see a move to reshoring and bringing manufacturing back from overseas due to the bureaucracy and costs involved.”
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