As Boris Johnson holidays, shipping giant Maersk diverts cargo ships away from the UK and the Office for National Statistics reports job vacancies are at the highest since records began in 2001
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A record number of unfilled jobs and cargo ships being turned away was more evidence today of a nation in crisis.
Households are facing soaring energy and food bills, gaps on shelves, and potentially higher mortgage costs.
The holidaying Prime Minister is under even more pressure to get a grip, amid fears conditions will worsen in the run-up to Christmas.
Today the Office for National Statistics confirmed job vacancies reached 1.2million last month, the highest since records began in 2001.
There are different views on whether worker shortages are down to Brexit, the Covid crisis, or longer term trends – or a combination.
What do you put it down to? Have your say in the comment section
Among those most in demand is HGV drivers, with an estimated 100,000 shortfall.
Shipping giant Maersk said today it was diverting vessels away from the UK because of a build-up of cargo. Drivers are needed to take containers away from ports. Maersk has started rerouting ships from Felixstowe, the UK’s largest commercial port, to unload elsewhere in Europe.
Staff shortages are partly blamed for nearly 1,000 hospitality businesses closing since July, when the final easing of Covid curbs were supposed to prove a boost. Pubs, restaurants and pubs have been forced to reduce opening hours or occupancy because of a lack of staff.
Karl Chessell, of consultants CGA, which produced the report, said: “The numbers are a reminder, if it were needed, that the crisis in hospitality is far from over.”
Elsewhere, there are shortages of everyone from care workers and NHS workers to bus drivers. The fuel shortages that brought queues over two weeks have mostly been resolved, but prices are rising.
Brian Madderson, chairman of trade body the Petrol Retailers Association, claimed a “large majority” of forecourts did not know when they would receive their next delivery.
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He said: “There are many reports of wet sites quickly going dry because continuity of tankers remains out of kilter with orders. The situation in London and the South East remains serious.”
Meanwhile, data from number crunchers Kantar showed shoppers cut back on trips to the supermarket over the past month to save petrol. Grocery prices have also risen by 1.7%.
Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight, said: “In real world terms, the average household had to spend an extra £5.94 on groceries last month than they did at the same time last year. The typical household spends £4,726 per year in supermarkets, so any future price rises will quickly add up.”
The chairman of Tesco warned food prices – kept in check until now – could jump 5% this winter. That is dwarfed by rocketing energy bills which, combined with other costs, is expected to drive up the rate of inflation from 3%.
It has led economists to predict the Bank of England could up its base rate from a record low 0.15% before Christmas, earlier than forecast. A rise could push up borrowing costs.
Inflation is eating into pay rises – estimated at 2% to 3% – leading to real term wage cuts.
There is concern firms are not doing enough to recruit people who need extra training.
Anoushka Kenley, of research charity Pro Bono Economics, said: “The number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months is 191,000 up on pre-pandemic levels.”