By Kristy Dorsey

Unfilled vacancies have hit a new record high in the run-up to Christmas, with Scotland accounting for half of the top 10 hiring hotspots in the UK.

According to the latest tracking report from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), 210,000 new job adverts were posted in the UK during the week to November 28. That followed three of the best weeks for new adverts on record, including 274,000 postings in the first week of the month.

In total there were a record 3.51 million active job adverts last week as firms across many sectors continue to struggle with hiring. That was an increase of more than 500,000, or 16 per cent, since the end of October.

“This is very much a candidate’s market now,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said. “Firms need to think about how they will attract staff facing greater competition than ever before.”

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The Isle of Wight posted the largest week-on-week increase in job listings, up by 7%. This was followed by East Dunbartonshire, up 5.5%, and East Lothian/Midlothian, up 4.1%.

The other Scottish local authority areas featuring in the top 10 are Edinburgh (+3.4%), Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire (+3.4%), and Falkirk (+3%). The Scottish Highlands saw a decline of 17.7% to put it among the bottom 10 performers along with the Shetland Islands, down 6.2%.

Across the UK, prison officers were most significantly in higher demand, with a 21% increase in adverts for these roles. Others with notable increases were scaffolders (+6.9%), dentists (+4.5%), vets (+4.5%) and veterinary nurses (+3.8%).

The education and training sector also contained several roles with strong increases in advertisements, with demand for school secretaries up 4.9%, careers advisors up 3.5%, and special needs teachers up 3.4%.

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The biggest decline by far was in adverts for publicans and managers of licensed premises, down 20.8%. There was also a notable decrease in demand for restaurant and catering managers (-7.7%), hotel and accommodation managers (-7.1%), and catering and bar managers (-6.8%).

“We’ll have to wait and see how this week’s news on the Omicron variant affects the market, with hospitality the sector most likely to bear the brunt of any slowdown in consumer confidence,” Mr Carberry said. “The downturn in hospitality management roles in this data is more likely to reflect the completion of hiring for Christmas, however.”

More broadly, however, it remains a “candidate’s market”. John Gray, UK vice president of labour market analytics firm Emsi, noted that the number of new job postings remains significantly higher than before the start of the pandemic.

“Whilst this can be seen as an indication of business confidence, we know from other data sources as well as anecdotally that many employers are really struggling to hire,” he said.

“Solving this situation will require employers to be more proactive in their attempts to attract and retain employees – including looking at things like salaries being offered, hiring bonuses, on-the-job training, career progression, and other benefits of working for the company – and also in recognising the need to communicate these things clearly and effectively to prospective employees in job advertisements.”