The government is being urged to bring in urgent labour market reforms and be realistic about recruiting from abroad after new figures revealed job vacancies remain close to record high levels.
The latest Labour Market data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the period September to November shows that there are 1,187,000 positions not filled.
Although that is down by 65,000, and is the fifth quarterly reduction, the figures are still historically high.
British Chamber of Commerce Head of People Policy Jane Gratton – former Deputy Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers – said: “These figures show the tightness in the UK labour market is not shifting significantly.
“Job vacancies remain at record highs, adding to the recessionary pressure businesses are facing.
“We have urged the Government to immediately reform the Shortage Occupations List. This will help businesses fill urgent job vacancies from abroad when they cannot recruit skilled people locally.
“Firms need to support over 50s to return to work and invest much more in training and upskilling. But politicians need to be realistic about the skills we need from outside the UK.
“It’s time for a sensible debate that looks beyond the headline immigration figures, as these include students and are skewed. They don’t reflect the real-life situation facing employers up and down the country.
“Brexit has given us control of our borders and Government must use the appropriate levers to help struggling businesses get the people they need.
“It’s no use talking about growth if we are not prepared to take action on it.”
The latest ONS figures also show that workers in the private sector saw their average pay rise by 6.9 per cent between August and October, compared to 2.7 per cent for public sector employees.
However, taking price rises into account, pay was down 2.7 per cent in real terms.
Unemployment was also up a fraction by 0.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent.
The ONS also said that a total of 417,000 days had been lost to work in October due to strike action. That is set to continue as the UK enters a period of strike action spanning the Christmas and New Year period.