Labour supply: This continues to be a challenge. We are now entering the busy horticultural season, which is always a pressurised time for labour supply.

UK unemployment statistics show that in the labour market there continue to be less and fewer people looking for a job, remaining at 3.8%, the lowest since December 1974. UK employment rate is 76.1% which is the joint highest figure on record. UK economic inactivity rate i.e. those without a job who have not actively been seeking work in the last 4 weeks, is estimated to be 20.8%, lower than last year and close to the lowest on record.

Employment rates continue to improve with 32.75 million people in employment. Women at work is now at a record high at 72%, with men at 80.3%. In terms of age groups, the highest employment rate is those aged 35 to 49 at 85.3%, followed by those aged 25 to 34 at 84.3%. The lowest is for those aged 50 to 64 years at 72.5%.

The April 2019 ALP survey of the UK Food Supply Chain is now available. This shows businesses are finding labour supply challenging and are having to make changes to address labour shortages. Here are the headlines:

  • Labour supply to the UK food supply chain in 2019 continues to be extremely challenging
  • Quality of workers continues to fall
  • Labour sourcing and supply costs continue to rise
  • The great majority of food growers and manufacturers have already increased wages of lower-skilled workers and are deploying numerous labour attraction and retention strategies
  • A significant proportion of EU nationals are expected to leave the UK permanently in 2019
  • About one-third of businesses are actively automating to counter labour shortages
  • Around one in five businesses are planning to reduce UK output due to labour shortages.

We are hearing concerns about the level of no shows and incidents where workers have arrived but only stayed for a few days, moving into other sectors where the jobs are inside and maybe not quite so demanding. The weather has also had an impact on the horticultural season. We are being told that because of the slow start to the summer weather, the requirement for labour is later and in some cases, the numbers are down on last year. This seems to have taken some of the pressure off the labour supply chain for a number of businesses.

It is always useful to hear your experiences of labour supply to include in future updates. We all knew that 2019 was going to be a demanding year for labour supply and it is certainly meeting those expectations. There are no signs that things will get any easier later in the year.

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