In a challenging economic climate, businesses across the United Kingdom are grappling with a significant shortage of manpower, hindering their ability to capitalise on the festive season.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Lightcast’s latest Labour Market Tracker, over 1.4 million active job postings remain unfilled nationwide, presenting a considerable obstacle for industries seeking to boost revenue during the Christmas period.

The data reveals that in the week of November 27 to December 3, 2023, there were 1,438,099 active job postings, marking a 7.7 percent increase compared to the previous week.

However, this figure represents an 8.6 percent decline compared to the same week in the preceding year (November 28 – December 4, 2022).

Also, 186,329 new job postings emerged during this week, indicating a 15.8 percent rise from the preceding week but a 2.6 percent drop compared to the same period in 2022.

Which sectors are seeing the most vacancies?

Notable spikes in job advertisements were observed in the fields of physiotherapy (+21.1%), midwifery (+19.8%), and occupational therapy (+18.8%). The rise in demand for these healthcare professions may be indicative of ongoing challenges faced by the National Health Service (NHS), which must adeptly manage its workforce amid persistent labour and skills shortages this winter.

REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry emphasised the resilience of the job market, stating, “While the jobs market has slowed across 2023, today’s data emphasises again that activity levels on hiring are still high by historical standards.” Carberry noted that despite economic slowdowns, hiring remains robust, particularly in sectors such as hospitality, engineering, and health and social care, where shortages persist.

Growth should be prioritised

With Christmas approaching, businesses are confronted with the dilemma of insufficient staffing levels to meet heightened seasonal demand. Neil Carberry urged political leaders to prioritise growth, highlighting the risk of constrained economic activity without the right workforce. Carberry recommended a focus on skills reform, a rational debate on immigration’s impact on growth, and an industrial strategy as essential components for stimulating economic recovery.

Occupations experiencing substantial growth in job advertisements during the specified week included road construction operatives (+17.1%), speech and language therapists (+16.8%), and programmers and software development professionals (+15.5%). Conversely, actors, entertainers, and presenters (-0.2%), taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs (+0.0%), and forestry workers (+0.6%) reported the lowest growth.

Geographically, regions such as Gwynedd (+20.2%), Scottish Borders (+15.4%), and Redbridge and Waltham Forest (+14.7%) demonstrated notable increases in job adverts. Conversely, Fermanagh and Omagh (+1.4%), Lisburn and Castlereagh (+1.8%), and West Dunbartonshire (+2.4%) exhibited the lowest growth.

As businesses grapple with high job vacancies, the REC’s data underscores the critical need for concerted efforts to address labour shortages and support economic recovery during the festive season.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.