The latest government statistics on the labour market have revealed that the unprecedented rise in vacancies has continued to grow, reaching a new record in the March figures.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, there are now 1,318,000 vacancies. This is not only the highest ever, but the result of 12 successive three-month periods of increase, although the rate of growth has been declining in each of the last seven months.
Not surprisingly, the upshot of this is a widespread shortage of available labour. Half the industry sectors in the UK economy are recording shortages and the overall picture of 4.4 vacancies for every 100 jobs is a record high. At the same time, the ratio of 1.0 unemployed people to every job vacancy is the lowest on record.
That might sound like a recipe for full employment in the absolute sense, but the rate of joblessness remains at 3.9 per cent. The difference, of course, can be explained by the mismatch between the skills required and what those out of work can offer. For example, Logistics UK is campaigning for changes to post-Brexit visa rules to help recruit more HGV drivers from overseas.
All this may have significant benefits for freelancers. Just as supply teachers or nursing agencies provide stop-gap solutions when there are absences or shortages of staff, so freelancers in various sectors can help pick up the slack from firms that do not have the payroll staff numbers they need.
Not only does that mean there can be lots of work available for freelancers with the right skills, but there may be lots of choices available too, enabling them to go for the ones offering the most money.
Of course, the cash a freelancer can bring in and the more customers they are working with, the more complex it can be to carry out tax self assessment.
That’s why a successful freelancer will be wise to engage the services of a sole trader accountancy provider to ensure their tax returns are accurate and take into account higher expenses, such as extra driver mileage due to undertaking more work than before, or the need to buy more tools as existing ones are used more and wear out faster.
Commenting on the employment situation, British Chambers of Commerce head of economics Suren Thiru said: “Record vacancies highlights chronic imbalances in the UK labour market with demand for workers outpacing supply.”
Moreover, he added: “With rising economic inactivity indicating a deep-seated decline in worker participation, particularly among older people, recruitment difficulties may persistently drag on economic output.”
While constraints on economic growth may be a more general issue for the country, there is no doubt that to whatever extent they can fill the gap, freelancers have a major opportunity to offer firms a large helping hand, greatly benefitting the growth of their own bottom line.
Moreover, unless and until there are serious relaxations with visa requirements, an ageing population and post-Brexit economy could continue to provide an abundance of opportunity that will benefit freelancers for years to come.