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More people looking for work as job vacancies fall

The number of people looking for work has risen as job vacancies fall suggesting that the uncertain economic outlook is hitting employment.

About 220,000 more people were seeking work between December and February than in the three months before.

Unemployment rose slightly and job vacancies fell for the ninth time in a row, official figures suggest.

However, the figures also showed a rise in the employment rate as more people returned to the jobs market.

Overall, UK economic growth has been flat since spring last year, with the effects of high energy prices and rising interest rates taking their toll, along with strikes in several sectors.

Inflation – the rate at which prices rise – has been running at more than 10%, remaining close to 40-year highs, and the latest earnings figures showed that pay continues to lag rising prices.

Annual growth in regular pay, which excludes bonuses, was 6.6% between December and February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

However, when taking into inflation into account, regular pay fell by 2.3%.

The ONS figures showed that the employment rate edged up to 75.8% in the three months to February. In the same period, the unemployment rate rose to 3.8%, up from 3.7% in the previous three months.

Job vacancies fell for the ninth time in a row with companies blaming economic pressures for holding back on hiring new staff.

From January to the end of March, the number of vacancies fell by 47,000 from the previous quarter to 1,105,000, although the ONS noted vacancy numbers remained at “very high levels”.

Michael Stull, the managing director of employment agency ManpowerGroup, told the BBC’s Today programme: “We are starting to see a pullback in demand from employers. However, we’re still in a strong position.”

“We’re seeing more people coming back into the workforce,” he added, noting that more over-50s and younger people were returning to the jobs market.

However, Paul FitzGerald, managing director of Coast & Country Hotels, a chain of 30 hotels across the UK, said recruitment was still a huge challenge, particularly in the hospitality sector.

“The situation is getting a little better, we’re seeing some green shoots of improvement, but it’s still chronic”, he said, adding that vacancies were running at 11% in the business.

“The biggest problem area is chefs. They are in short supply and that’s our number one priority,” he said.

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More people looking for work as job vacancies fall

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