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UK exporters are "impeded by labour shortages"

29 May 2018

UK exporters are "impeded by labour shortages"Two-thirds of manufacturers that export struggled to recruit in the first quarter of 2018, according to new research.

The latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in partnership with DHL, has found that exporters are being hampered by widespread labour shortages.

Both the manufacturing and services sectors are affected. Of those recruiting, 66% of manufacturers and 57% of services exporters are struggling to find the right staff, according to the survey of over 3,300 exporters.

In manufacturing, the greatest difficulty is in finding skilled manual and technical labour (66%) and in the services sector, it is professional and managerial level positions (53%).

The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 2.24% on the quarter and stands at the second highest level since records began in 2004.

Dr Adam Marshall, BCC director general, said: "At a time of significant uncertainty and change, it's pleasing to be able to report that many UK exporters are doing well. Yet many tell us that their future prospects are being constrained because it's becoming harder and harder to recruit the people they need to grow.

"Businesses with global ambitions are facing critical skills gaps at just about every level," he said. "The combination of decades of constant change in the training system, declines in immigration and tight local labour markets are stopping many firms from making key investments. A stable training system, a reformed apprenticeship levy, answers to practical questions around Brexit and clarity on the UK's future immigration regime are urgently needed. Get these right, and exporters all across the UK will take risks, invest and grow."

The BCC findings are in line with the results of the latest Labour Market Outlook from HR body the CIPD and The Adecco Group. This quarterly survey of more than 1,000 employers has found that 61% say that at least some of their vacancies are proving hard to fill. The number of vacancies in the UK economy remain well above historic average levels.

Gerwyn Davies, CIPD senior labour market analyst, said: "Employers looking to expand their workforces are likely to face growing headwinds as organisations find it more difficult to source the people and skills they need."

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