Skills shortages are still biting the Shropshire economy as companies struggle to find suitable recruits to fill full-time vacancies.
This is one of the headline findings in the latest quarterly economic survey from Shropshire Chamber of Commerce.
The survey reports a ‘recruitment mismatch’ across the county, with more job-seekers looking for part-time or flexible work - while the majority of vacancies being advertised are full-time positions.
“Changing times and changed attitudes are forcing employers to look at new ways to attract staff,” said Shropshire Chamber chief executive Ruth Ross.
“Skills shortages are still biting, although rising inflation has helped to alleviate some of the unfilled vacancies because the need for people to work, in whatever degree, has become more important.”
Only a quarter of companies saw improved sales during the third quarter of this year, compared with just under a third in the previous survey.
Some retail and wholesale businesses reported a ‘poor summer’, while one marketing company said: “Fears of a high cost of living remaining in place for longer than originally expected is definitely starting to feed through into a lack of certainty with future orders.”
On overseas trade, export sales remained relatively unchanged. One wholesaler said: “We continually hope for an upturn, but continue to tread water with sales significantly down on pre-pandemic rates.”
Employers reported a rise in staff numbers in spite of their ongoing recruitment challenges. More than 10% are looking to grow their teams further over the final three months of this year.
Inflation and interest rates are not seen as such large ‘fear factors’ as they were earlier in the summer. Manufacturers said the biggest looming issue for small to medium sized businesses was now a hike in corporation tax.
The survey also revealed that investment in plant and machinery, and training, remained virtually unchanged in Shropshire, while 43% of businesses are predicting increased profits this year, up from 35% in the previous three months.
The anonymous survey – which is open to all businesses whether or not they are members of the Chamber – looked at a range of key issues including cashflow, sales, skills, recruitment, training, investment, and business confidence.
It is carried out by Shropshire Chamber on behalf of the British Chambers of Commerce and is part of the largest and most respected survey of its kind in the UK.
The Shropshire results and comments are fed directly into the national database, which is used by central government and the Bank of England to help understand business pressures and needs, and set interest rates.
Ruth Ross said: “It’s really important for us that as many businesses as possible take time to fill in this survey. It is completely anonymous – so that you can speak freely - and takes only a few minutes.
“The results are used by multiple Government departments, as well as the Bank of England, to understand the business climate. Every business voice matters - the louder we shout, the greater the impact we can have.”