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Shortage of workers threatens UK recovery – here’s why and what to do about it

The nation has very low unemployment figures, but that masks a complex labour market.

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For the first time since records began, there are more job vacancies in the UK than unemployed people, according to the latest monthly labour market figures. This has been driven mainly by a near-fourfold surge in job vacancies to around 1.3 million since the summer of 2020, when economic activity was allowed to resume at the end of the first COVID lockdown.

Record vacancies might seem like a good thing in terms of maintaining low unemployment. But employers across all sectors of the economy are struggling to fill vacancies, which limits economic recovery. So what explains all these vacancies, and what can be done about them?

First of all, the spectacular rise in job vacancies goes far beyond a pre-pandemic “bounce back”. Although the biggest shortages are in hospitality, there have been substantial rises across most sectors. All are above pre-pandemic levels.

Job vacancies and unemployment (thousands)

Office for National Statistics (2020), Vacancy Survey and Labour Force Survey

Demand for labour (that’s all employment plus vacancies) has recovered to almost exactly its pre-pandemic level. But the data indicates that the increase in vacancies is not due to a surge in demand for labour, but because the labour force is shrinking: it dropped by 1.6% or 561,000 between the first quarters (Jan-March) of 2020 and 2022, which is greater than the increase in job vacancies over the same period (492,000).

Notably, people’s reasons for being economically inactive have changed over the past couple of years. Following the first COVID lockdown, the large drop in labour supply among 16-64s (those of working age) was mainly driven by rises in long-term sickness (139,000) and early retirement (70,000).

Reasons for economic inactivity over time, 16-64 year olds

Chart showing why 16-64s are economically inactive over time
Note: the chart shows quarterly rolling years. Author calculations of ONS Annual Population Survey, accessed via Nomis

The drop in the workforce also masks a considerable churn within it, which may be adding to employers’ difficulties in recruiting staff. During the first lockdown, the number of EU workers fell by some 300,000. This has partially recovered, as you can see in the chart below, but there are still around 100,000 fewer than at the start of the pandemic.

Yet this has been more than offset by continued long-term growth in the number of non-EU foreign-born workers in the UK, increasing by some 170,000 since the start of the pandemic. Brexit, in other words, in tandem with the pandemic, has been a source of churn in the labour market.

Change in non UK-born workforce 2019-21

Chart showing what has happened to non-UK nationals working in UK over time
Note: although likely to be indicative of trends, non-UK residents may be underestimated due to the Annual Population Survey/Labour Force Survey shifting from face-to-face to online data collection during the pandemic. Data is currently subject to review and may be revised. Authors' calculations of ONS (2022) Labour Force Survey

The geographic dimension

Until now, little has been known about where this sharp rise in vacancies has been happening, which is an important question if the government is to be able to address geographical imbalances in the economy through its “levelling up” policy.

To help remedy this, we have been studying comprehensive online job vacancy data obtained under a special research agreement with the Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow to use data scraped from the Adzuna job vacancy search engine. Our data analysis is not yet published in the academic literature, but it provides an early indication of the overall pattern.

The rise in the rate of job vacancies appears remarkably uneven across local authority districts in Great Britain. The two maps below show the change from before the pandemic in February 2020 (on the left) to July 2021 (on the right), the most recent month for which we have been able to compute data. This is likely to still be indicative of the most recent geographic pattern.

Vacancies growth between February 2020 and July 2021

GB maps showing job vacancies by council district
Authors’ calculations based on Adzuna vacancy data (Adzuna. Economic and Social Research Council. Adzuna Data, 2022 [data collection]. University of Glasgow - Urban Big Data Centre), ONS Business Register and employer survey and ONS local authority boundaries

It shows huge increases in vacancies in relatively few districts, while most others show either modest increases or falls. The highest rates are particularly found in remoter rural areas, particularly in the south-west and north-west of England, and in parts of inner London.

Many of these districts are dependent on foreign labour, particularly for agriculture in rural areas, and hospitality and other sectors in London. Again, this may be a sign of the effect of Brexit and the pandemic choking off the growth in the number of EU workers.

What can’t be denied is that the employment market has been restructured in several major inter-related ways in a relatively short period, not only with Brexit but also thanks to rapid increases in remote online working, disruption to global supply-chains and COVID-related ill health.

It would make sense for these factors to produce “mismatches” between the skills and locations of workers and vacancies. For example, many job seekers have skills in declining occupations, such as skilled manual work. Our own analysis backs this up, since we see more job seekers than vacancies in some former industrial towns, particularly in the West Midlands and northern England – exactly the opposite problem to some inner London boroughs and rural districts.

What should be done

Places across the UK where job vacancies are concentrated are likely to experience sharp economic contractions if they are unable to attract more workers soon. Yet the areas that have experienced drops or weak growth in vacancies compared to before the pandemic are also a concern, as they may have been hit harder by issues like global supply chains and the pandemic and may not have enough jobs to go around.

Policies to combat Britain’s labour shortage must therefore be geographically targeted. Areas in need of more jobs, particularly higher-paying jobs, often require long-term investment in infrastructure and skills.

But to help areas in need of more workers, there will need to be creative solutions such as employers offering attractive packages including training and flexible working, and local and national authorities ensuring adequate local availability of affordable housing.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Aging-US | Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone…

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BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Credit: Hillje et al.

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Aging is known to involve epigenetic histone modifications, which are associated with transcriptional changes, occurring throughout the entire lifespan of an individual.

“So far, no study discloses any drift of histone marks in mammals which is time-dependent or influenced by pro-longevity caloric restriction treatment.”

To detect the epigenetic drift of time passing, researchers—from Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, University of Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’, University of Milan, and University of Padua—determined the genome-wide distributions of mono- and tri-methylated lysine 4 and acetylated and tri-methylated lysine 27 of histone H3 in the livers of healthy 3, 6 and 12 months old C57BL/6 mice. 

“In this study, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing technology to acquire 108 high-resolution profiles of H3K4me3, H3K4me1, H3K27me3 and H3K27ac from the livers of mice aged between 3 months and 12 months and fed 30% caloric restriction diet (CR) or standard diet (SD).”

The comparison of different age profiles of histone H3 marks revealed global redistribution of histone H3 modifications with time, in particular in intergenic regions and near transcription start sites, as well as altered correlation between the profiles of different histone modifications. Moreover, feeding mice with caloric restriction diet, a treatment known to retard aging, reduced the extent of changes occurring during the first year of life in these genomic regions.

“In conclusion, while our data do not establish that the observed changes in H3 modification are causally involved in aging, they indicate age, buffered by caloric restriction, releases the histone H3 marking process of transcriptional suppression in gene desert regions of mouse liver genome most of which remain to be functionally understood.”

DOI: https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.204107 

Corresponding Author: Marco Giorgio – marco.giorgio@unipd.it 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, histones, ChIP-seq, diet

Sign up for free Altmetric alerts about this article:  https://aging.altmetric.com/details/email_updates?id=10.18632%2Faging.204107

About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging (Aging-US) publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components…

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

By Michael Erman

June 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components tailored to combat the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the coronavirus.

The FDA said manufacturers would not need to change the vaccine for the primary vaccination series, saying the coming year will be “a transitional period when this modified booster vaccine may be introduced.”

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The new booster shots would be bivalent vaccines, meaning doses would target both the original virus as well as the Omicron subvariants.

The decision follows a recommendation by the agency’s outside advisers to change the design of the shots this fall in order to combat more prevalent versions of the coronavirus. read more

BA.4 and BA.5 are now estimated to account for more than 50% of U.S. infections, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have also become dominant elsewhere.

The FDA said in a statement on Thursday that it hoped the modified vaccines could be used in early to mid-fall.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) with partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) have been testing versions of their vaccines modified to combat the BA.1 Omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter.

Although they have said those vaccines worked against BA.1 and the more recently circulating variants, they did see a lower immune response against BA.4 and BA.5.

The companies had already been manufacturing their BA.1 vaccines, and said on Tuesday that swapping to a BA.4/BA.5 version could slow the rollout.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which on Wednesday announced a $3.2 billion contract to supply more COVID vaccine doses to the United States, said they would have a substantial amount of BA.4/BA.5 vaccine ready for distribution by the first week of October. read more

Moderna said it would be late October or early November before it would have the newly modified vaccine ready.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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Marketing automation startup Retail Rocket nabs $24M for expansion

Retail Rocket, a retention management platform for brands, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A round led by Cyprus-based private equity…

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Retail Rocket, a retention management platform for brands, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A round led by Cyprus-based private equity fund Flintera. In addition to the fundraising, Retail Rocket revealed that it acquired SailPlay, a startup developing software to help retailers build loyalty programs and send mass message campaigns.

New York-based SailPlay had raised $3.3 million prior to the acquisition. Founded in 2013 by Leonid Shangin and Yakov Filippenko, the company offered services to collect customer data and leverage it to create games, texts, and tasks designed to encourage repeat business.

As for Retail Rocket, it launched in 2012 headed by Moscow Business School of Management classmates, Nick Khlebinsky and Andrey Chizh, who’d attempted but failed to gain traction with several startups. The learnings from their previous efforts were the springboard for Retail Rocket, which after multiple pivots eventually grew its customer base to over 1,000 companies including Nintendo, Puma, and Decathlon.

“The digital marketing world is growing very fast and the demand for highly-skilled professionals is constantly increasing,” CEO Khlebinsky said. “The complexity of digital marketing tools is booming too — just several years ago we couldn’t imagine the technologies we use today.”

According to Khlebinsky, Retail Rocket uses a mathematical model to segment first-time buyers of a company’s product. By analyzing their actions — for example, the links they click on — the platform attempts to figure out their wants and preferences.

Image Credits: Retail Rocket

Retail Rocket also offers tools for campaign management like email marketing and web-based push notifications, as well as an engine that attempts to identify the best timing and communication channel (e.g., SMS) to make personalized offers. The goal is to create a “system of loyalty and retention management” for both online and offline customers, Khlebinsky said, that ultimately boosts business.

“We work with ecommerce on a performance-based pricing model,” Khlebinsky explained. “In most countries, the pandemic lockdowns spiked online sales, thus we experienced a temporary revenue increase. After the lockdown ended, there was a decrease, but to levels exceeding the pre-lockdown months, because a lot of people were forced to change their buying habits towards online shoppings.”

Absent independent reviews of Retail Rocket’s platform, it’s unclear whether its approach might beat out rivals like SalesForce, SAP, Bloomreach, and Dynamic Yield. But the promise of software that predictably drives repeat business is alluring. According to HubSpot, a mere 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by 25% to 95%.

Retail Rocket has around 150 employees spread across offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Chile, and it plans to double down on mergers and purchases in the coming months. Sources close to the company tell TechCrunch that Retail Rocket has $50 million set aside for acquisitions alone.

“Retail Rocket popped on our radars thanks to their international expansion and ability to set up sales teams in Europe and Latin America,” Flintera partner Sergey Vasin said in a statement. “We were impressed with the company’s results given the limited amount of investment they raised. The company was bootstrapping its growth after the seed round. Despite that, the efficiency of Retail Rocket products surpasses those of international competitors. We expect that the global e-commerce market will continue its growth at more than 10% per annum, with Latin America leading the race.”

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