New figures show London suffering high rates of both unemployment and staff shortages

New figures show London suffering high rates of both unemployment and staff shortages

Greater London is enduring one of the highest rates of joblessness in the country while a key West End business sector has seen a steep fall in sales according to newly released figures.

The latest unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), released today, put the capital’s seasonally adjusted rate at 4.6 per cent of its population aged 16 and over compared with a UK figure of 3.8 per cent. Only the north-east, at 5.1 per cent, is faring worse.

Also released today, findings from a survey by the Heart of London Business Alliance business improvement district body, which represents over 600 businesses in the West End, say that those operating in hospitality and leisure have suffered an average 20 per cent loss in sales compared with normal levels, ironically due to staff shortages, with 19 percent of positions presently vacant.

Heart of London says its figures indicate that West End hospitality is in a worse position than the sector nationally, as a UK Hospitality national survey earlier this year found a relatively small 16 per cent drop in sales resulting from staff shortages with only 15 per cent of available jobs unfilled.

The organisation’s chief executive Ros Morgan said the West End numbers demonstrate that “as London gets back to business, recruitment has become an existential issue facing the West End’s hospitality sector” with businesses “unable to open their doors, not because of lack of demand but because of a lack of staff. It’s like another lockdown for businesses, but this time without support from government”.

Claire Harding, research director for think tank Centre for London, said the ONS unemployment figures for the capital serve as “a strong reminder that the capital shares challenges with many other regions in the UK. Although Londoners are often perceived as better off than those who live elsewhere, the city’s residents face the same economic realities seen in cities and towns across the country.”

The collapse in numbers working in hospitality in London and elsewhere has been found to be related to both Brexit and the pandemic, with the ONS recently finding that almost 100,000 European Union nationals had left jobs in accommodation and food services nationally in the two years to June 2021, representing a fall from 42 per cent of workers employed in those areas to just 28 per cent.

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