Job creation in north west continues but cost of labour and skills shortages concern businesses, survey finds

Date published: 04 February 2019

Businesses in the north west will create more jobs throughout 2019, but access to labour and skills is a major concern, according to a new survey.

The annual employment trends survey, now in its 21st year, was carried out between August and September 2018 by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents approximately 190,000 businesses across the UK, and recruitment agency, Pertemps Network Group.

The findings revealed that 44% of more than 100 north west businesses that responded expect to grow their workforce in the year ahead, in line with the UK average of 45%.

However, almost two-thirds of firms (63%) say limited access to labour is a threat to competitiveness, while 84% of the region’s firms reported they are struggling to access the skills they need to succeed.

Damian Waters, CBI North West Regional Director, said: “While the north west job market is in good health, these latest figures make clear that labour and skills shortages are already biting hard.

 “The figures also show a worrying trend that there aren’t enough sufficiently skilled people to fill the number of job vacancies.

“While it is encouraging to see firms are investing in training their staff and helping them develop new skills, this investment alone is not the silver bullet that will meet all our needs.

“Business and the Government need to plug the skills gap and champion the flexible labour market on which our economic strength relies, to ensure investment continues to flow in.”

Nationally, nearly half of UK businesses (48%) said that the UK has become a less attractive place to invest and do business over the past five years.

With a new immigration system due to replace free movement of people when the UK leaves the EU, six in ten firms are concerned about access to enough labour (up from 49% in 2017) and three in five firms (59%) see the ability to move UK workers across the EU in future years as a threat.

Encouragingly, nearly nine in ten businesses across the UK (88%) see a diverse and inclusive workforce as important or vital to their future success.

In the north west, more than half of businesses (54%) said they are prioritising improving the gender diversity of their organisation, with almost one-in-five (19%) making changes to progression routes to help women into management levels.

Nearly all firms in the north west (96%) are taking action to reduce the gender pay gap while more than a quarter of the region’s businesses (27%) said that creating a more inclusive working environment is among their top priorities for 2019.

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