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Recruitment dilemma

Low interest in job seeking ‘adding to shortages’

Employment law

Fewer people are actively looking for work

Only 11% of workers who are on furlough or not working are actively seeking a job and are contributing to the current shortage of staff, according to new research.

Some seem “relaxed” about finding work and one recruitment economist has warned that many may find the situation changing when the furlough scheme ends and employers decide they are no longer needed.

The labour market has rebounded strongly since the end of lockdown, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.7% across the UK and job postings surging past pre-pandemic levels. 

At the same time, employers across a range of sectors – from chefs and lorry drivers to bar staff, hairdressers and vets – are struggling to fill vacancies. Research by jobs website Indeed suggests a lack of urgency among many of those not working or on furlough to find a new role may be contributing to these challenges. 

Overall, just 7% of all workers surveyed, including those working full or part-time, said they were urgently seeking a new role, rising to 11% among those on furlough or unemployed. 

In total, two-fifths (41%) of those still on furlough are not searching for a new job, along with over half (56%) of those not currently in work.

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Among those on furlough and not searching for work, 71% said they were not looking because they expected to return to their pre-pandemic job. Nearly two million workers were still on furlough as of the end of June, with the scheme due to end at the end of September.

Meanwhile, 12% of those on furlough indicated they were not comfortable returning to in-person work due to COVID-19.  

Even among those who are currently unemployed and actively searching for work, many are being choosier about the roles they apply for because they have some financial security. About 30% of unemployed people who are not urgently looking for work said they had a financial cushion sufficient for some time. 

Nearly a fifth (17%) of people without a job said they could manage because their spouse or partner was still employed.

Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed, said: “Many employers are desperate for staff, but a significant portion of the workforce appear surprisingly relaxed about finding work, preferring to wait for more job opportunities to emerge. 

“Even with the end of the furlough scheme looming, most are feeling optimistic about returning to their workplace and so are in no rush to find a new job.

“But with almost two million people still on the furlough job retention scheme, some may soon learn they will not be going back and will therefore need to start actively searching. 

“The financial cushions enjoyed by some unemployed workers will also eventually erode, and will create a greater sense of urgency among those currently out of work but still happy to sit on the sidelines. 

“For now, amid a backdrop of robust labour demand and a strong sellers’ market, most people seem to feel they can be choosy about their next job move.”  



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