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12th March 2024

Chambers react to latest labour market data

The ONS has released the latest data on the labour market, including employment and unemployment figures, vacancies and economic inactivity levels.

Paul Butterworth, CEO at Chambers Wales South East, South West and Mid, said:

“The latest labour market data reveals a mixed bag of news; vacancies continue to fall and there is minimal movement in the rates of employment and unemployment yet there remains high levels of economic inactivity whilst wages continue to outpace inflation.

“The labour market continues to be tight and challenging for businesses in Wales who are trying to recruit the right skilled staff. Almost two thirds of businesses in Wales experienced difficulties in recruiting suitably skilled staff as demonstrated in Q4 of 2023 according to our Quarterly Economic Survey.

“While the government at UK level took steps to address this in last week’s Budget with regards to childcare access, there is still more to be done to help people back into work and to progress such as ensuring fair and flexible workplaces with access to training and upskilling opportunities.

“Both Welsh Labour leadership candidates have expressed that they want to make Wales a desirable place to work, highlighting plans to support fair workplaces and opportunities for skills development which may help address and overcome some of the current barriers to work. We need to see this put into plan.”

Jane Gratton, Deputy Director Public Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:  

“With wages continuing to outpace inflation, alongside high levels of economic inactivity – including long-term sickness, the picture for businesses trying to recruit remains challenging.

“Yet at the same time, the number of vacancies continues to fall, and rates of employment and unemployment remain stable.

“Overall, the labour market is still much tighter than it was before the pandemic, and the long-term structural issues it faces have yet to be addressed.

“While the Government took positive steps to ease problems with childcare access in the Budget last week, there is still more to do to get people back into work. This includes removing barriers to work and ensuring job seekers are well prepared to succeed in the workplace.

“Business also has a role to play in tackling shortages. By ensuring fair and flexible workplaces, alongside training and upskilling, employers can make their jobs more accessible to a broader talent pool. This would also help slow the loss of people from the workforce for health and other reasons.

“The BCC’s own research indicates the labour market remains tight for many. Unless we get more people back into the workplace then the risk of higher inflation and interest rates will persist.”

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