Can we serve up another jobs mir­a­cle?

Hospi­tal­ity and re­tail staff face cuts but the re­cov­ery from the 2009 re­ces­sion of­fers hope for the em­ploy­ment mar­ket, writes Tim Wal­lace

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business -

How does a na­tion re­build af­ter the great­est eco­nomic calamity in the best part of a cen­tury? The last time that a “once-in-al­ife­time” cat­a­clysm took place – yes, just a decade ago – the UK bounced back re­mark­ably quickly.

Un­em­ploy­ment rose far less in Britain than it had in pre­vi­ous re­ces­sions. The 2010s turned the na­tion into a job-gen­er­at­ing ma­chine.

By 2017, job­less­ness was down to lev­els not seen since the Seven­ties. Could the coun­try re­peat this feat in the years af­ter the Covid-19 re­ces­sion?

The an­swer de­pends on the type of in­dus­tries which sur­vive and thrive, and whether or not they can off­set those which strug­gle. For clues, look to the jobs cre­ated since 2009. The num­ber of jobs climbed by 4.3m over 10 years, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics.

Pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal po­si­tions led the way, with 820,000 ex­tra white-col­lar roles, typ­i­cally with good pay. Ad­min­is­tra­tive and sup­port ser­vices added a 675,000-strong army of staff. Health and so­cial work was the next big­gest, adding 612,000 jobs.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion and food ser­vices rounded off the re­ally big growth in­dus­tries, hav­ing added more than 550,000 jobs over 10 years. This last cat­e­gory is the most likely to leave a crater in the econ­omy now.

While of­fice staff can of­ten work from a lap­top at home, and health work­ers are clearly in enor­mous demand, it is face-to-face cus­tomer ser­vice jobs which have been smashed by the pan­demic. At the peak of the lock­down in May, four fifths of work­ers in ac­com­mo­da­tion and food ser­vices were on fur­lough. The sec­tor is re­open­ing only grad­u­ally, with con­sumers of­ten cautious about sit­ting in­doors. That is bad news for its typ­i­cally young and low-paid work­ers.

Large parts of re­tail fall into the same cat­e­gory, with high street foot­fall down 40pc on 2019 lev­els. Re­cruiters ex­pect the trends of re­cent years to re­assert them­selves, with se­ri­ous con­se­quences for work­ers.

“The big trend was that Bri­tish con­sumers were more val­ue­con­scious around what they bought in shops, but per­fectly will­ing to go out for the night,” says Neil Car­berry, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Re­cruit­ment and Em­ploy­ment Con­fed­er­a­tion.

“I sus­pect that trend will con­tinue, so re­tail in its clas­sic shop-based form was in sec­u­lar de­cline be­fore this hap­pened, and the cri­sis am­pli­fied and ac­cel­er­ated that.

“Whereas hospi­tal­ity and cul­ture, if we get through it, on the other side, you can­not see restau­rants or pubs no longer be­ing a thing.”

As a re­sult, work­ers sup­ply­ing goods to con­sumers could end up in ware­houses, lo­gis­tics or web de­sign in­stead of the shop floor, while hospi­tal­ity jobs will re­turn slowly. We are still in the early days of the re­cov­ery, but so far hir­ing trends in­di­cate that work­ers with dig­i­tal skills are in high demand, to sup­port oth­ers who are work­ing from home, and to serve the on­line econ­omy.

This month, the REC found surg­ing demand for web de­vel­op­ers, graphic de­sign­ers and lorry driv­ers.

This is an un­usual mix of va­can­cies for the gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents and school leavers who might nor­mally have found their first jobs in shops, pubs and restau­rants.

Tony Wil­son, direc­tor of the In­sti­tute for Em­ploy­ment Stud­ies, notes that ware­house jobs typ­i­cally come with fewer ca­reer de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties than high street roles. On the other hand, the boom in IT jobs could be more promis­ing for young work­ers. Fre­quently, they be­gin in helpdesk roles, work­ing their way up to more skilled and well-paid po­si­tions. There are jobs out there, but they need dif­fer­ent skills.

“The pan­demic has ex­ac­er­bated skills short­ages that al­ready ex­isted in the UK labour mar­ket,” says Si­mon Win­field, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Hays UK and Ire­land. “The skills most in demand range from man­age­ment and lead­er­ship skills through to the abil­ity to adapt to change.

“The lat­ter will be all the more im­por­tant for pro­fes­sion­als to de­velop in or­der to thrive.”

Pub­lic money is be­ing ear­marked for train­ing, ap­pren­tices and ca­reers help, but if em­ploy­ers want to fill those skills gaps quickly then they will have to of­fer more train­ing them­selves.

It is worth re­mem­ber­ing that the jobs mar­ket is never set in stone, and work­ers are al­ways shift­ing po­si­tions.

Even with the huge hir­ing spree of the 2010s, some sec­tors shed work­ers. Pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and de­fence lost more than 230,000 staff. Fi­nan­cial ser­vices and in­sur­ance, the pow­er­house of the econ­omy, did not re­cover fully from the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and is still down 7,000 work­ers.

This year will still be ex­tremely painful. But Britain’s flex­i­ble labour mar­ket, com­bined with a large dose of tar­geted help, could mean a re­peat of the “jobs mir­a­cle” of the past decade.

A worker car­ries drinks to Liver­pool FC fans fol­low­ing the re­open­ing of pubs af­ter lock­down re­stric­tions were eased. The hospi­tal­ity sec­tor is among the hard­est hit by Covid-19

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.