After 18 months of emergency government support for UK PLC payroll, the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closes today. The Chancellor’s take is clear: “With the recovery well under way, and more than 1 million job vacancies, now is the right time for the scheme to draw to a close

This seems neat – employment has indeed returned to pre-pandemic levels and, at the same time, more job vacancies are advertised than ever. Record employment and record vacancies – a clear picture of economic growth as the UK, in many sectors, recovers from the impact of lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. Seems like people are needed at work, and that work is accessible to people?

Of course, it’s not that simple. The most recent statistics, dating to the end of July, showed 1.6 million people were still furloughed. Sadly, all predictions are that a significant number will be made redundant as the scheme closes. The furloughed, and underemployed don’t align neatly with where vacancies are now.

These were the top 5 furloughed occupations back in July:

  • Passenger air transport: 51%
  • Travel agency and tour operator activities: 46%
  • Photographic activities: 35%
  • Creative; arts and entertainment activities: 28%
  • Clothing manufacturers: 26%

What does this mean for talent supply? Some employing sectors will have recovered more than others in the last couple of months. Certainly, changing travel rules have led to more holiday bookings in October; welcome news for those looking for a return to full employment in travel agencies and operators. Similarly, you’d expect clothing manufacturers to play some part in unlocking the supply chain … is crisis too strong a word? But opportunities for photographic activities seem few and far between, and the return of creative arts and entertainment events is in its fragile infancy.  If only workers in these occupations had HGV licences! Re-skilling is likely to play a huge part in future talent acquisition but messaging on that topic has been handled poorly in the past and it’s not a quick fix.

The end of furlough is likely to mean an increase in unemployment, and inactivity – but it is not going to solve the talent shortages, or candidate-lead recruitment market faced by so many businesses. Employers will need to keep investing and working harder, and smarter, to engage the best talent with opportunity, benefits and values at their businesses – and then make it easy for those people to join and make an impact.