E-commerce giant Amazon is offering a £3,000 golden hello to new staff in Devon as the number of unfilled job vacancies in the South West hits a record high.
The worker shortage is so pronounced the online retailer is offering the “signing on bonus” for a warehouse operative in Exeter, on top of pay of £10 to £20 an hour.
The offer, open until the end of October, is for a full-time picker/packer, to sort and dispatch parcels, with no qualifications or experience necessary. The company will even pay for the time a recruit living in Plymouth will spend travelling to the depot in Exeter – a one-hour car drive.
It comes as the number of people claiming benefits in the South West has fallen by a third compared to the same period in 2020. New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal there were 124,477 people claiming Universal Credit (UC) in the South West in August 2021. But this figure is down by 59,280 from the same month in Covid-ravaged 2020, a fall of 32%.
Nationally, the number of workers on company payrolls surged by more than 120,000 above pre-pandemic levels following a record jump in September.
And job vacancies throughout the UK also remained above a million for the second month running, according to official figures. Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed another record quarterly leap in job vacancies, up by 1.1million between July and September.
In Plymouth, where the 7,611 claimant count is down by 3,467 year-on-year, a 31% decline, there are more than 4,000 job vacancies advertised on the jobsite Indeed, and more than 1,000 on the Government’s Find a Job site, of which about 70% are full-time and permanent. In Devon there are 9,000 unfilled vacancies on Indeed.
Labour market shortages have been a national concern in recent months particularly in transport and logistics with a shortage of HGV drivers being cited as a reason for empty supermarket shelves and dry filling station forecourts.
And Nicky Keast, partnership manager for Plymouth DWP said driving jobs are among the most plentiful in the city. She said Plymouth was also “crying out for bus drivers” , but there were also vacancies in warehousing, such as at Amazon, and in the hospitality sector, even after the end of the main tourist season.
She said Devonport dockyard operator Babcock International Plc was also seeking graduates for jobs “with good salaries” and added: “There are also quite a lot of HR positions, more than normal”.
With job vacancies hitting a national high, Mrs Keast said the situation was very likely to be the same in Plymouth and across the South West – and it is leading to a hike in wages too.
She added: “There are vacancies in a lot of different sectors, some very interesting jobs. And employers want people to work for them, so the salaries are looking good.
“Employers are releasing they have to step up to recruit and attract people to their business. There is quite a bit of competition and it looks like there are some attractive salaries.
“We are working very hard in the Jobcentres to get customers ready and have had lots of employers coming in to meet people – and some are even offering jobs there and then, which is great.”
In the South West, the increase in employment was strongly seen among young people, with just 19,870 claiming UC claimants in the region, from Bristol to Cornwall, in August, a dip of 43% on a year earlier.
The Kickstart scheme, which gives youngsters six months at an employer and can lead to a permanent job, is being seen as a key reason for the decline in benefit claimants.
In Plymouth, the youth claimant figure was down 37%, well above the national decline of 30%, and Mrs Keast said: “We have got lots of employers coming into the Jobcentre in Plymouth and there are a variety of different things young people can do.”
Britain’s recovery in the jobs market saw the rate of unemployment fall further to 4.5% between June and August, the ONS said.
Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, with the number of employees on payroll in September now well exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
“Vacancies also reached a new one-month record in September, at nearly 1.2million, with our latest estimates suggesting that all industries have at least as many jobs on offer now as before the onset of Covid-19.”
Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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Jack Kennedy, UK economist at the global job site Indeed, said: “In several sectors, near-frenzied competition for staff is forcing employers to raise wages sharply. The average salary for driving jobs advertised on Indeed has soared by 8.5% since the start of 2021, outpacing construction – at 8% – as the sector with the fastest growing wages.
“But we’re not seeing that replicated across the broader market, where advertised wages are up just 1.4%. Turning the UK into the higher-wage economy the prime minister called for in his Conservative party conference speech will require much more, including sustained improvements in productivity growth.”