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12th December 2023

Mixed messages for labour market

The ONS has released the latest data on the labour market, including vacancies, employment and unemployment rates.

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

“The latest labour market data released today shows yet another drop in the number of vacancies and minimal changes to the employment and unemployment rates. While pay growth eased in the three months to October, it is still outpacing inflation.

“In addition to these mixed messages, there is a continuing skills shortage across the economy which is impacting productivity and long-term growth. In our Quarterly Economic Surveys, Welsh businesses continually tell us of the difficulties they experience when recruiting, particularly for skilled employees.

“Almost a third of businesses in Wales identified skills development as an opportunity to recover in Q3 of 2023 and half of Welsh businesses stated that upskilling staff was a high priority for their business. It is essential that policymakers do all they can to help businesses invest in skills, training and development, providing all those who want to work with the opportunity to progress and consequently contribute to business growth and productivity.”

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

“Labour market data continues to send mixed messages, as vacancies trend downward, but unemployment and employment remain largely static and pay growth outstrips inflation.

“But while we may have fewer vacancies, we still have a major shortage of skills across our economy. This is holding back productivity and growth.  So now is the time to redouble efforts to prepare, upskill and reskill the workforce for the changes and opportunities ahead of us.

“These remain challenging times for firms and the BCC’s most recent forecast predicts the economy will grow by just 0.6% in 2024 and business investment will contract by 0.8%.  Government must do all it can to help businesses invest more in apprenticeships, technical education and upskilling people in work.

“Every day, employers are struggling to fill jobs, so it’s essential that everyone who wants to work is given the opportunities and training they need to do so, urgently.

“The Autumn Statement included some welcome steps, but with the immigration system now looking out of reach for most businesses, the Government must encourage investment in skills training and set out a stable, long-term strategy to support this.”

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