New analysis has suggested that job vacancies in the hospitality sector could hit a record high in December, leaving restaurants, pubs and other leisure outlets struggling to take full advantage of the busy festive season.

Looking at the past 10 years of vacancy data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), student work app Stint said the number of unfilled hospitality jobs across the UK could hit an all-time high of 163,000 next month, a 279 per cent increase on the same period in 2010. Its calculation is based on Bayesian forecasting techniques that analyse trends from previous years of data.

Even at the lower end of its range, the 136,000 job vacancies predicted would be a hefty 55% increase on that recorded in December 2019 before the onset of the pandemic.

Stint noted that hospitality vacancies have been increasing year-on-year for the past decade, but have been acutely exacerbated as bar staff, waiters and concierges have failed to return from furlough. Added to that has been the exodus of EU workers who were spurred to return to their native countries by the epidemic and post-Brexit immigration policies.

During the final six months of furlough, the number of hospitality workers accessing the job support programme fell by 831,000, yet during the same period hospitality vacancies increased by almost 100,000. According to most recent ONS data, there are currently 151,000 unfilled jobs across the UK sector.

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“The hospitality industry could be facing a second tough Christmas if these staffing holes aren’t plugged in time,” Stint co-founder Sol Schlagman warned.

The analysis further underlines the scale of labour shortages across a variety of sectors which looks set to continue, with research released last week by Hays indicating that hiring intentions across Scotland have hit an eight-year high.

The data collected as part of the agency’s annual recruiting trends guide found that 81% of Scottish employers expect to hire new staff in the coming 12 months. Three-quarters said they had experienced skills shortages during the past year, with 44% of those reporting a resulting negative impact on productivity and 37% saying it had a negative impact on employee morale.

Hays said 65% of employers who are looking to hire are in the market for permanent staff, while 35% are hiring for temporary positions. More than a third (34%) are hiring for roles that will be fully remote.

Despite widespread talk of the “Great Resignation” – a spike in staff departures triggered by the impact of the pandemic and accompanying lockdown measures – Hays found that just 54% of professionals in Scotland are planning to move jobs in the next 12 months. That was the lowest in eight years.

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Keith Mason, director of Hays Scotland, said this was a symptom of “the very uncertain market” of the past 24 months.

“But we’re now beginning to see significant movement,” he added. “Confidence was low at the beginning of the year, but the economic outlook hasn’t dipped as expected, so passive jobseekers are now becoming active jobseekers.

“Many don’t want to miss out on the opportunity for a potential pay rise and are keen to take advantage of a rising market and enhanced salary package.”

To help abate shortages, 41% of employers have hired temporary or contract workers. A further 22% have reskilled existing employees into new positions, 21% have recruited apprentices, and 16% said they are now more likely to put forward a counter-offer to retain staff poised to go elsewhere.

“Some sectors are particularly challenged such as engineering, technology and construction, which have also been impacted by workers returning to the EU as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and Brexit,” Mr Mason said.

“Some clients are out of touch with the current challenges in that they know there are shortages but don’t understand why. So it’s important to do strategic and long-term recruitment research and planning.

“There’s also a risk that some public sector organisations are behind the curve on basic salaries, and if they operate graduated pay scales they might have to consider offering at the top of the grade to attract staff. Across the board, counter-offers are more prevalent than ever.”