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Construction Industry Vacancies Soar to New Levels

Three construction hard hats, white blue and yellow set on a wood floor.

Construction job vacancies have reached an all-time high since official records began in 2001.

Latest Government figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the hunt to find workers to deliver on projects will intensify as building and construction firms fight it out over their skills and services.

The July to September rolling month figures reveal one of the busiest times ever for construction. Unfilled job vacancies rose by over 45% on the previous 3-months from April to June and almost twice the rate for the same period a year ago.

This equates to nearly 3 vacancies for every 100 jobs in the construction sector.

Construction Vacancies growth per 100 construction workers graph

But why is this happening?

Industry bosses believe that the figures are a reflection of the post-Pandemic rebound as mothballed and pipeline projects are opened up and firms return to full activity.

The previous year has seen extensive labour shortages across the sector and proved very challenging for many firms. The rising cost of employing workers coupled with other factors such as the raw material shortage has resulted in the latest PMI index for September falling to its slowest growth measurement in eight months.

The high vacancy figures were directly pushing up wages and show the average total pay growth for construction rose to 9.7% over June to August 2021.

With financial services highest at 11% in the all-industry wage inflation chart, construction ranked second but the figures are still staggering compared to previous periods.

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, said labour market shortages "could stunt" the UK's economic recovery from the pandemic.

"The recovery is testing the capacity of the economy to adjust to a new post-pandemic environment, a task made more difficult by the reduced availability of overseas workers," she said.

"Acute skill shortages have pushed vacancies to record levels for a second month in a row in September, as employers struggled to find skilled staff."

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) said labour shortages were "affecting the whole economy, and where likely between a quarter and a third is explained by lower migration".

Tony Wilson, director of the IES, said there were now fewer unemployed people per vacancy than at any time in at least 40 years. “This is down to fewer older people in work and more young people in education” he said.

"These shortages are holding back our economic recovery and won't fix themselves by just exhorting firms to pay people more."

What is the solution to this soar in jobs/lack of workers?

The solution for many firms could be to leave the laborious and stressful task of searching and vetting of employees, particularly checking their right to work in the UK, to experienced and specialised construction recruitment agencies.

Mr Paul Donnelly, Commercial Director of Recruiteasy, a leading Southwest construction recruitment firm, said: “The growth in vacancies over the last few months has been unprecedented.

“We are busier than ever. Our large database and long-term relationship with our construction workers has enabled us to fulfil most of the vacancies that came our way. This includes for many of our newer clients, who were desperate for skilled and semi-skilled workers.

This intensive period shows why good relationships with strong recruitment agencies, of which there are many, are vital for firms to deliver on projects and to not get caught short. It pays to leave that job of hunting for suitable workers to a trusted agency and save a great deal of stress!

Recruitment and employment is what we do day-in, day-out, so it makes sense for site managers and seniors to focus on what they do best, to manage their projects. It is very cost-effective to leave the laborious search for workers and the vetting process to a trusted and experienced employment business."

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