The number of people without jobs in Peterborough is continuing to fall, according to new figures - but city employers are still struggling to fill a record number of vacancies.
The contradiction of rising employment and record vacancies is already setting off alarm bells for business leaders who fear it could slow economic growth.
Jobcentre staff have even begun to host an average of two jobs fairs a week as they battle to help recruit the staff desperately needed across all sectors of industry.
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Figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) show that the number of people in Peterborough claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen to 6,156 people during the 12 months to last May from 9,726 - a fall of 37 per cent.
And the number of jobless 18 to 24-year-olds has also fallen over the same period from 1,819 to 951 - a drop of 48 per cent.
A jobs fair to be held at Northminster on July 28 will be attended by a range of companies from fresh produce supplier AM Fresh to internet retailer Amazon and even Peterborough’s new university, which will have officials present to begin recruiting staff for the opening of the new seat of learning in September.
Julia Nix, the DWP’s district manager for East Anglia, said: “There are literally hundreds of vacancies in Peterborough.
“In my 39 years’ experience this is the highest level of vacancies I have ever seen - and it is across all sectors too.
“It seems that all sectors of industry are growing and all have vacancies.”
Also at the jobs fair will be representatives of the Army, recruitment firm REED, Travelex, Coveris, Bowella Recruits, Whirlpool, RNIB, retailer B&M, Cross Keys and representatives from the health and care sector.
It will be followed by an Apprenticeship fair at the Jobcentre in Bridge Street, Peterborough, on August 10 from 10am to 12.30pm with representatives from a range of employers.
Ms Nix said: “Although we’re in the middle of a hot summer, skilled jobcentre work coaches are working harder than ever to help employers fill record levels of vacancies.
“It remains our top priority to match the right job with the right person.
She added: “The jobcentre continues to host local businesses looking to speed date with prospective employees.
“From job opportunities in jobcentres to skills academies for people considering a new career, there’s a huge amount of help available, and our work coaches are working tirelessly to get people at any age, or career stage, into rewarding and stable employment.”
Why is this happening?
Tom Hennessy, chief executive of Opportunity Peterborough, said, "Peterborough's robust economy is creating lots of job opportunities for residents, but the many changes we've seen in business over the last two years have brought challenges.
"People whose last job was in the accommodation and food services sector are more likely to be unemployed, and a disproportionate number of young people fall into this group.
"Although food services, accommodation and hospitality are bouncing back, more jobs are available in other sectors, such as logistics, and health and social care, and young people may not have the skills and experience required for these roles.
Vic Annells, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The labour market remains incredibly tight, in many cases affecting firms’ ability to maintain normal operations.
“Although these figures show the employment rate has risen it is having no noticeable impact on the overall number of job vacancies.
“The problems in the labour market are restricting growth and choking off any hope of a recovery for many firms; as inflation, supply chain disruption and energy costs also add to their headaches.
“The huge number of vacancies is holding back productivity and growth, and employers are at their wits’ end.”
What can be done to tackle the problem?
Mr Hennessy said: "Opportunity Peterborough is working with Peterborough MP Paul Bristow, the Department for Work and Pensions, and other partners across the city to develop a new programme aimed specifically at reducing youth unemployment in the city by 50 per cent over the next two years.
“The programme will help young people get work ready and ensure that employers have the confidence to invest time into developing fresh talent."
Mr Annells said: “We need to bring more economically inactive people back into the UK labour market by offering flexible working practices, rapid re-training opportunities and a focus on workplace healthcare and support.
“The Government must also reform the Shortage Occupations List criteria to include more jobs at more skill levels to give firms breathing space to train and upskill their workforce.”
Are we heading for an ‘employee-led recession?
Mr Annells said: “We desperately do not want to go into what is called an ‘employee-led recession’.
“This is where there are just not enough people for companies to hire to manage existing workloads and also future work.
"This means companies cannot manage to grow and will slow down economic output.
He added: “We need to bring people in from overseas – but this will need to be regulated.”
Where are some of these vacancies?
Peterborough BetFred has five vacancies for in various branches in Peterborough.
Peterborough DVSA is recruiting Driving Examiners and Vehicle Standards Assessors.
Peterborough BGL is looking to hire more than 10 staff for Customer Adviser roles at Bretton, Peterborough.
Peterborough Wedge Galvanising, in Sawtry, is looking to hire five staff.
Peterborough RNIB is currently looking for Helpline advisers in Northminster House, Peterborough.