ONS data for the period between March and May 2023 shows that there were 74,000 live manufacturing vacancies – the lowest number since June to August 2021.
That equates to a 22.3% year-on-year reduction in vacancies or 21,000 fewer open roles.
A recent report by manufacturing association Make UK, in collaboration with business advisory service BDO, noted that the manufacturing sector was “successfully recruiting”, although not quite at the rate manufacturers hoped for.
In ratio terms, there are currently three vacancies per 100 employee jobs. This is the lowest that ratio has been since May to July of 2021, when it was 2.8 per 100 employees.
Manufacturing gradually improving
Senior economist at Make UK James Brougham said that while there were numerous challenges facing the sector, the overall picture is “gradually improving”.
“Companies are at least seeing a relative period of stability after the political and economic turmoil of the last few years when they have spent most of their time firefighting,” Brougham added.
“Substantial challenges still remain, however, and so long as there is an absence of an overarching industrial strategy growth prospects will remain anaemic at best.”
The ONS measures vacancies in three-month rolling averages.
Supply chain pressures
Meanwhile, BDO national head of manufacturing Richard Austin warned that manufacturers still face myriad pressures.
“Supply chain pressures are an endemic issue for the businesses we talk to, particularly medium-sized firms,” Austin said.
“They are facing continued disruption and increased costs, at home and abroad, with many choosing to onshore operations but facing major barriers in doing so. These issues cannot be overlooked by policymakers or we run the risk of tepid-at-best growth for UK manufacturing while neighbouring countries outpace us.”
In related news, an independent review into food and drink labour shortages was met with optimism by members of the industry.