Businesses are struggling to fill vacancies, with two thirds citing a lack of suitable candidates as the primary reason for the difficulties they are experiencing.

Not only this, but the labour shortage caused by a reduced number of EU applicants was cited by one in four (25 per cent) organisations, with the transport and storage industry reporting the highest proportion (46 per cent).

Of businesses currently trading, 13 per cent reported that vacancies were more difficult to fill in the last month compared with normal expectations for this time of year in late August.

This figure is up from 9 per cent in early August 2021, with one in three businesses in the accommodation and food service industry reporting vacancies being more difficult to fill than normal.

The water (27 per cent) and health (23 per cent) sectors also continue to struggle, reporting recruitment problems in late August, alongside 15 per cent of transport and storage firms citing hiring challenges.

The figures from the ONS show that overall, two in five businesses (41 per cent) across all industries were finding it difficult to recruit during the period, up from 32 per cent earlier in August.

The survey reported the highest level of job vacancies since it first started recording in 2001, reporting 1,034,000 between June and August, an increase of 35 per cent on the previous quarter.

In spite of vacancies reaching record levels, the total number of UK employees on payroll was around the same as it was in February 2020.

Whilst payrolled employment remained below pre-pandemic levels by as much as 6 per cent in hospitality and 10 per cent in arts and recreation, among industries, it was generally rising in August 2021.

Colette Philip, UK HR country lead at SD Worx, said:

While businesses have been reinvigorated as we emerge from Covid-19 restrictions, they are now facing scaling challenges. Hiring drives and talent shortages in the market are putting pressure on HR professionals to fight for the right people in the war for talent.

Commenting on the vacancy issue and skills shortage faced by many businesses, Chief Executive of the REC Neil Carberry said:

There are a number of things we can do to solve this crisis. Government has convened a cross-department forum to tackle these shortages, but this will only be effective if industry experts are involved as well.

Government must work with business to improve training opportunities for workers to transition into the most crucial sectors, and allow some flexibility in the immigration system at this time of need.

And while businesses are raising salaries in many sectors, they must think more broadly about how they will attract and retain staff through improved conditions, facilities and staff engagement, working with recruiters, who are the professional experts in all of this.