Shortages of lorry drivers that are driving the UK economy to a grinding halt are primarily the result of a lack of EU workers due to Covid and Brexit, according to official statistics released today.
One in four businesses are struggling to fill roles as a result of a sharp reduction in the supply of suitable applicants caused by EU workers leaving the UK, shows new research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This proportion rises to 46 per cent among transport and storage businesses, highlighting the acute hiring difficulties haulage firms are facing.
EU workers have flowed out of the UK and headed back home since the onset of the Covid crisis, in part due to concerns they may not see loved ones for some time as a result of ongoing travel restrictions. Strciter immigration caused by Brexit have disincentivised EU workers from staying in the country.
High migration levels have depleted labour supply for many sectors of the British economy, causing supply chain snarl ups and shortages of products and raw materials.
Hospitality firms are experiencing the worst recruitment problems, with one in three saying vacancies are harder to fill compared to normal. Excluding businesses with fewer than 10 employees, 41 per cent are struggling to fill vacancies, while 15 per cent of transport businesses are struggling more than usual to fill roles.
Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell, said: “The labour shortage has been tough for businesses trying to capitalise on post lockdown trade and it doesn’t show any sign of getting better in a hurry, in fact the situation only seems be getting more acute.”
The research comes as businesses across the UK economy have reported difficulties finding HGV drivers. However, the ONS said HGV jobs represented only one in 10 jobs in the transport sector.
Vacancies in the hospitality and transport sectors were 59.1 per cent and 32.5 per cent respectively higher than pre-Covid levels.
The most common cause of firms being unable to fill roles was a lack of skilled workers, with 67 per cent citing this as the main reason, the ONS said.
“A skill disconnect has always troubled the UK and some businesses are already altering their hiring focus with an eye on up-skilling people to do the job they need doing,” Hewson added.
London’s jobs market is lagging behind the rest of the UK, the ONS said. The number of people on payrolled employment in the capital remained 1.8 per cent lower than pre-Covid levels, while the rest of the UK had equaled their peak before the pandemic struck.