Job vacancies in the UK have reached a near-record level, due largely to the shortage of nurses, carers and other healthcare staff.
According to analysis by the Office for National Statistics, more than one in 10 job vacancies posted online in December were in healthcare – more than in any other sector. The statistics agency said healthcare was the job category with the highest share of adverts in almost 90% of local authorities in the UK.
Rishi Sunak’s government faces increased pressure over its refusal to offer a bigger pay rise to NHS workers. The prospect of continuing strike action in the increasingly bitter dispute over pay and staff shortages.
According to the ONS, there were almost 1.5m estimated open job adverts as a daily average during December. Using data from the jobs search engine Textkernel, it said healthcare accounted for almost 190,000, or 12.7% of all vacancies. Healthcare also accounted for the two occupations with the largest number of job adverts nationwide, with 31,870 adverts for support workers and 21,170 for nurses.
The second largest share of job vacancies in December was in information and communication technology professions, driven by recruitment adverts for software engineers, with almost 16,000.
IT jobs contributed to the largest share of vacancies in about 8% of local authorities, and were concentrated in London. Meanwhile, production and warehouse management jobs held the biggest share in almost 2% of local authorities, with the greatest demand within the “golden logistics triangle” in the Midlands including in Daventry, Harborough, north Warwickshire, north-west Leicestershire and Tamworth, and Thurrock in Essex.
London dominated the share of adverts in arts, culture and media and communication, marketing and public relations, representing more than a third of all jobs advertised in these professions across the UK.
The government has expressed concern about the near-record number of vacancies in the UK after a surge in workforce shortages since the end of Covid lockdowns. However, ministers have typically focused their attention on the private sector.
The near-record figures on vacancies coincide with annual pay growth in the private sector climbing at twice the rate of that in the public sector, stoking concerns about widespread staff shortages across the NHS, social care, education and policing.
Official data shows that job vacancies across the economy have fallen back in recent months to just under 1.2m. However, they remain much higher than before the pandemic.
The ONS said the increased share of healthcare adverts was part of a longer-term trend in demand. The sector’s share of online job adverts has been increasing consistently since 2017 even when factoring out the rise in relative demand for healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic.
It comes as business groups warn that labour shortages are holding back economic growth, after an exodus from the UK workforce since the onset of the Covid pandemic and as tougher post-Brexit rules make recruiting EU workers harder.