Vacancies up 15% on pre-pandemic levels

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Priority: cost burden's need rebalancing as vacancies rise (Credit:Getty/Charday Penn)
Priority: cost burden's need rebalancing as vacancies rise (Credit:Getty/Charday Penn)

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Rebalancing cost burdens across the hospitality sector needs to be a “priority” as vacancies remain stubbornly above pre-pandemic levels.

According to official figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 107,000 vacancies in the industry in the quarter to April 2024, 15% higher than pre-pandemic levels of 93,000.

The data also showed wages paid in the sector had increased by 9.5% in March 2024, driven in part by ongoing wage inflation and the sector’s focus on recruitment and retention, as well as some business having implemented the April wage increases early.

Rebalancing and reducing 

UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls said the figures were demonstrative of a labour market that was “out of sync” with the “positive economic news​” seen elsewhere, in particular with GDP increasing​.

She added: “Hospitality businesses are investing heavily in their people, with wages up almost 10% in the last year, but the lack of movement in vacancies shows the need for the sector to be unshackled in other areas to free them up to invest and drive economic growth.

“Rebalancing and reducing the sector’s cost burden must be a priority because we’re continuing to see money earmarked for business investment diverted into simply paying the bills.”

Appetite to invest 

This comes as a joint survey​ by UKHospitality, British Beer & Pub Association, Hospitality Ulster and the British Institute of Innkeeping revealed 95% of operators had planned to invest in customer service, 92% in staff​ training and 71% in venue refurbishments – all up significantly on last quarter.

Nicholls continued: “There is appetite out there to invest. Hospitality businesses want to spend money on the future, but they need to be freed up financially to do so.

“I hope the Government recognises the potential hospitality holds and its unique ability to help the nation achieve its economic goals.”

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