The economy may be faltering, but the biggest problem for Walker Engineering is one usually associated with a boom: too few workers.

“Everyone you speak to in the industry seems to be struggling to get tradespeople,” says Andy Walker, managing director of Lancashire-based Walker Engineering. “I think we lost a lot of workers in Covid around the 60-year age that decided enough was enough.”

Workers enjoyed a golden period in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, as a shortage of staff helped bid up wages across the economy, and drove a glut of job hopping.

Many may fear the era of the almost ‘unsackable’ worker is ending almost as quickly as it began. But employers and economists say this downturn could avoid the wave of job losses typically seen in a recession.

Cutting staff on the way down could leave employers without enough people on the way back up, given the scale of shortages faced before this recession. Many employers do not dare to ditch workers when economists warn labour shortages are here for the long haul.

“It’s that balancing act: you don’t want to be paying for labour you can’t get work for but on the other hand, if stuff starts to come in, then you can’t find the labour,” says Andy Walker. Business is still brisk at Walker Engineering, even as the economy weakens and, like many employers, it is still looking to recruit. 

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