London reports lowest job vacancies with highest number of unemployed

The ONS’s most recently published labour market figures show that vacancy numbers have reached another record high with the number of payroll employees up by 207,000 having surpassed pre-pandemic levels. This is 122,000 higher than levels seen before the pandemic hit in February.

The UK’s employment rate increased by 0.5 percentage points last quarter to 75.3%, while the unemployment rate was down 0.4 percentage points to 4.5%.

The ONS stated that the number of job vacancies increased by 318,000, with all industry sectors above or equal to the levels seen between January to March last year, before the first lockdown.

Record vacancies may not be good news

According to analysis of job listings by Adzuna, people looking for work may not be in the right areas to fill them, with different regions facing different employment challenges. London is by far the worst place for workers to be in if looking for employment, with more people looking for work than jobs advertised. The capital city had 13.4% of over 16 unemployed or furloughed which was the highest in the country. Vacancies were 104% of what they were pre-pandemic, but this was the smallest growth nationally.

The opposite is true in Northern Ireland, where vacancies grew 154%, the second steepest in the country, but there are comparatively fewer people looking for work.

This location phenomenon could result in continuing crisis for businesses battling to find staff as the economy grows.

Pay increases on the rise but not enough to secure candidates

Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 7.2% and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6% among employees for the three months June to August 2021.

Darren Morgan, Director of Economic Statistics at the ONS commented: “The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus. The latest earnings continue to show growth on the year, even after taking inflation into account. However, the figures are still being affected by special factors that make it hard to read underlying trends.”

Matthew Percival, Programme Director for Skills and Inclusion at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Companies have found hiring difficult this autumn and the official data is beginning to tell the same story, with the number of people on payroll exceeding pre-COVID highs and record vacancies.

Responding to the ONS earnings and employment figures, Matt Weston, UK Managing Director of global recruitment firm Robert Half, said:

“We’re currently seeing demand above and beyond pre-pandemic levels, and despite the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ creating a tsunami of turnover, we are still experiencing a saturated market where the demand for skilled talent outstrips the supply. The competition is evident with the increase in median monthly pay showing the strength of candidates’ influence when agreeing terms with a new employer.”

Keltbray buys nmcn infrastructure business

Keltbray has agreed a deal to acquire a portfolio of infrastructure contracts and associated assets from nmcn which went into administration last week.

The latest move secures the futures of 117 former nmcn employees and Keltbray will take over existing contracts with immediate effect.

Some infrastructure contracts were not transferred as part of the deal leading to 19 redundancies

The acquired contracts will be managed within Keltbray’s existing infrastructure division reporting to Managing Director, Phill Price.

Keltbray CEO, Darren James said: “Keltbray are pleased with the ‘on strategy’ opportunities presented by the acquisition of these contracts, working with clients on some of the UK’s most important infrastructure projects.

“Today’s announcement accelerates our plans to build a resilient, growth-oriented business.  Equally important, we have also safeguarded 117 valuable jobs and livelihoods that could otherwise have been lost to our industry.

“The acquisition has required a very rapid, but collaborative approach, and Keltbray would like to thank all parties for their proactivity throughout.  I look forward to working with my new colleagues as we build a rewarding future together as one Keltbray.”

The Keltbray deal is the final sell-off of nmcn which went into administration last week.

Galliford Try bought the water business for £1m saving 900 jobs while Svella picked-up the telecoms, plant hire, transport and accommodation divisions saving 680 jobs.

Administrator Grant Thornton was unable to find a buyer for the building division leading to 80 redundancies.

Spokesperson for Grant Thornton, Rob Parker said: “We are very pleased to have secured this third sale which means that within less than a week of our appointment we have secured over 1600 jobs and helped to maintain continuity and minimise the impact for the greater majority of nmcn’s customers, many of which were involved in important infrastructure projects across the UK. It was important to ensure that transactions were completed as quickly as possible.

“Sadly it was not possible to transfer all of the Infrastructure contracts and therefore regrettably we have today announced 19 redundancies.

“Our focus as administrators now turns to assisting the purchasers of the various parts of nmcn with post completion matters and dealing with the other assets of the company.  We will be providing further updates in due course.

“The Joint Administrators would like to thank the efforts of Lee Marks, Alan Foster and the nmcn and Grant Thornton teams for their hard work in achieving these sales.”

Clancy Delivers Strong Profit Growth as Margin hits 4.5%

Civils contractor Clancy Dowra has delivered strong financial performance and boosted its order book to £1bn after a successful group restructure.

Chairman Kevin Clancy says strategic work done through 2020-2021 and in the years immediately preceding it has ensured the firm has solid foundations in place

Chairman Kevin Clancy says strategic work done through 2020-2021 and in the years immediately preceding it has ensured the firm has solid foundations in place

Rising profitability, with operating margins up to 4.5% from 1.4%, and strong cash flow allowed Clancy to unleash a record capital investment programme.

Around £20m has been invested in plant, equipment and technology to effectively build a platform for long-term growth.

This includes a growing spend on increasing Clancy’s zero-carbon fleet and an ‘electric first’ company car policy.

Despite the pandemic, the Harefield-based firm delivered an £11.1m pre-tax profit in the year to March 2021, up from £3.5m previously, and completing a business turnaround from a £2.8m loss four years ago

Turnover slipped back by 14% to £255m due to both the planned exit from loss-making business and the impact of the pandemic.

The firm, which employs 2,200 people, boosted its order book following a strategic focus on water, energy and wider infrastructure markets.

This summer Clancy opened the way for further expansion securing a new contract with Scottish Water providing repair and maintenance to Scotland’s water and waste water network for up to 12 years.

The expanded framework will help to double the size of Clancy’s operations in Scotland.  While a place on Northumbrian Water’s capital works framework supported a growing presence in the north east of England.

Kevin Clancy, chairman at Clancy said:“We are a family-run business and retain an entrepreneurial spirit which has enabled us to be agile and resilient throughout the challenges of the past year.

“This helped us to stay on track to deliver our long-term strategy, with results that reflect our journey over the last three to four years as much as the most recent twelve months.

“Our model of direct employment and investment in people remains a differentiator at a time when the construction industry as a whole faces significant challenges over the availability of experienced resource.”

Trio shortlisted for £370m HS2 Birmingham Interchange station

HS2 has shortlisted three bidders for the £370m contract to build a major Interchange Station in Solihull.

The contract, which will be awarded next year, is set to support 1,000 jobs, creating a major economic boost for people and businesses in the Midlands.

Interchange Station bidders

  • Laing O’Rourke Construction
  • Skanska Construction UK
  • Unity – a joint venture between Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick, supported by consultant WSP

HS2’s Stations Director Matthew Botelle said: “This is a major milestone in the delivery of our HS2 stations. We’re looking forward to working with the winning bidder on our award-winning designs, to build a world class, eco-friendly station that will play a major role in helping us deliver Britain’s new low-carbon railway.”

HS2 has worked with multi-disciplinary design team Arup to design the station to be net-zero in operation.

Also, it is the first railway station globally to achieve the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ certification at the design stage putting it in the top 1% of buildings in the UK for eco-friendly credentials.

The design maximises natural daylight and ventilation, with the station roof capturing and reusing rainwater.

Energy-efficient technology will also be incorporated, such as air source heat pumps and LED lighting.

The winning bidder of the contract will develop the detailed design of the station before construction begins and the station takes shape over the next few years.

Enabling work for the 150 hectares site on a triangle of land formed by the M42, A45 and A452 has involved construction of modular bridges over the M42 and A446, and remodelling of the road network in the area.

Wider growth plans around the site, being led by the Urban Growth Company, will support 30,000 jobs, up to 3,000 new homes and 70,000m2 of commercial space.

Fresh crackdown after surge in illegal export of plastic waste contaminated with mud, sand and brick


Contractors are being told to clean up their act after thousands of tonnes of contaminated plastic film and wrap produced in construction were blocked from export at UK ports.

Fresh crackdown after surge in illegal export of plastic waste contaminated with mud, sand and brick

Fresh crackdown after surge in illegal export of plastic waste contaminated with mud, sand and brick

The Environment Agency has pointed the finger at construction and demolition as the worst offenders for generating waste contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and wood.

Waste exporters are frequently classifying this as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but it is often contaminated poor grade plastic waste which is illegal to export.

Firms convicted of illegally exporting this contaminated waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence.

But Agency enforcers are warning construction firms are also in the firing line and could face enforcement action if they are found to show disregard for the environment.

During the last year, the EA said it had intercepted huge numbers of shipments to prevent their illegal export.  Of 1,889 waste containers inspected at English ports, agency enforcers stopped a quarter from being illegally exported.

This, combined with regulatory intervention upstream at sites, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.

It said exporters were undermining legitimate businesses in the UK seeking to recover such waste properly.

Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “We are seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by our officers.

“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations.

“It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else – even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly.

“We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”

Once-in-a-lifetime Discovery on a HS2 Site

Costain archaeologists have made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery on a HS2 project site that metal detecting treasure hunters can only dream about.

Potin coins from the Iron Age Hillingdon hoard

Potin coins from the Iron Age Hillingdon hoard

A rare hoard of over 300 Iron Age coins, dating back to the 1st century BC, was discovered at the Hillingdon project site in West London after storm water revealed the stash.

The Costain Skanska joint venture site was undergoing archaeological excavation when the hoard of early coins known as potins was uncovered. The term potin refers to the base metal silver-like alloy used in coins and is typically a mixture of copper, tin and lead.

Costain’s Emma Tetlow, working as Historic Environment Lead for HS2’s main works contractor Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture said: “We were coming to the end of our archaeological work on the site when we found a patch of soil that was a very different colour from what it would be expected to be.

“The patch of soil was dark greeny-blue which suggests oxidized metal, and when we checked more closely, we could see loosely packed metal discs.  This is a once in a lifetime find and allowed us to expand our knowledge of what life could have been like in Hillingdon many centuries ago.”

Known as the ‘Hillingdon hoard’, the find dates back to a period of change as the Romans began to establish themselves in Britain.

The potins are based on coins struck in Marseille, France, about 2,175 years ago. The use of these early coins spread across northern Europe.

In England, their use was commonly linked to Kent, Essex or Hertfordshire.

The value of the hoard has not yet been determined, nor has its future location.

Under the Treasure Act, the Coroner will determine whether the find constitutes ‘treasure’ and if a museum wishes to acquire the potins and recommendations for the find will be made and a potential value placed upon it.

The hoard was found during HS2 works on land that was occupied temporarily. HS2 is not making any claim on the hoard and under the Treasure Act archaeologists are not entitled to a share of any reward.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, said: “They say money talks so what can this unexpected discovery tell us?

“It takes us back to the tumultuous time of Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. Reaching Britain in 55 and 54 BC he observed the locals using ‘bronze’ coins, an innovation they had adopted not long before through cross-channel migration and trade.”

Behavioral Based Interview Questions

In an increasingly competitive market behavioral based interview questions are common place.

(Or BBQs as they’re known) are where the candidate is asked to describe situations where they were able to apply specific skills, training, or talents to solve problems or address job-related challenges and are excellent for assessing a candidates skills. 

Examples of Great Behavioural Based Interview Questions:

49 Examples of Behavioral Based Interview Questions for Every Situation

Below are the most common behavioral interview questions that you should ask your candidates. These questions will uncover detailed information about a candidate’s direct experience dealing with situations that matter.

Dealing with Stress

  1. What has been the most stressful situation you’ve had to deal with at work
  2. How did you handle it?
    2. What actions have you taken to prevent a situation from becoming too stressful for you and your colleagues?
    3. When situations become stressful at work, what do you do to alleviate that stress?

Ability to Adapt

1. How would you describe your transition from college to professional work? How did you handle it?
2. Tell me about a situation where you’ve had to adapt to changes beyond your control. How did you handle it?
3. Give me an example of a time where you’ve had to collaborate with someone who had a different working style. 4. 4. How did you adjust to ensure you met project objectives and goals?
5. Have you ever worked for managers with different management styles? How did you adjust to each?

Problem Solving

1. Describe a project where you were asked to use your analytical skills. What was the scope of the work and your role?
2. Tell me about a situation where you had to analyze information. How did you go about creating your analysis? What were your recommendations?
3. Tell me about a project at work where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was your process? What was the outcome? Do you wish you did anything differently?

Attention to Detail

1. Has there ever been a time where you’ve discovered an error by a colleague? What did you do and how did you fix the error?
2. How do you ensure that you have the right information for a customer or prospect?
3. What is your process for doing research? How do you ensure that you do not overlook any details?

Client Focused Questions

1. Tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with a frustrated or irate customer. What did you do? How did you resolve the situation?
2. Have you ever inherited a customer? What steps did you take to establish a good relationship?
3. What is your process for initiating a call with a business prospect? How do you convert them into closed business?
4. Have you ever gone above and beyond for a customer? What did you do? What was their reaction?

Communication-Based Questions

1. Tell me about a recent success giving a presentation to your team or management? How did it go? What could have been improved?
2. Have you ever had to present to a person/or group with little time to prepare? How did it go? What were the key takeaways from that experience?
3. Have you ever had to promote/evangelize an idea to your coworkers? How did you get them to support your idea?
4. Tell me about an experience where you had to communicate with someone via email where the situation didn’t go as planned. What went wrong? How did you clear up communication and resolve the issues?
5. Are there any situations where you’ve specifically chosen to communicate in person rather than instant messaging or email? Why did you choose this? How did the situation turn out?

Questions to Assess Creativity

1. Tell me about a recent problem that you solved by thinking “outside of the box”? What was the outcome? Were you happy with it? Why?
2. Have you ever improved upon any existing work processes? What was the process? How did you improve it? What did your coworkers or management think?
3. Have you ever brought any innovative ideas to your team? How was it received? If the reception wasn’t favorable, then how did you handle that?

Decision Making Questions

1. Have you ever had to make decisions without all of the information you needed? How did you handle that?
2. Provide an example of a time where you had to come to a decision quickly. What were the challenges you faced in making the decision and how did you make it?
3. What’s an example of a business decision that you regretted? How did you come to that conclusion and what would you do differently?

Questions Related to Goals and Initiatives

1. How do you go about creating short and long-term goals for yourself and your team? What metrics do you use to keep everyone accountable?
2. Provide an example of a time where you had to come to a decision quickly. What were the challenges you faced in making the decision and how did you make it?
3. Describe a project where you were the owner. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
4. Tell me about a scenario where you discovered a problem that could become a potential opportunity? What did you do and what was the result?
5. Tell me about a project you initiated. Why did you initiate it? What were the results?

Questions to Assess Employee Integrity and Honesty

1. Has there ever been a time where your integrity was challenged? How did you handle that particular situation?
2. Tell me about a time where you experienced a loss by doing something that was right?
3. Describe a professional situation where you thought honest was inappropriate. How did you react and manage the situation?
4. Have there ever been any policies at work that you did not agree with? Why?


1. What is the most difficult team that you’ve had to lead? What was the project? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
2. What do you consider to be your greatest leadership accomplishment? How did you reach this achievement?
3. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced building/growing a team? What traits do you look for in team members?
4. Have you ever had to deal with toxic employees that were hurting the effectiveness of your team? How did you deal with that particular individual? What steps did you take?

Interpersonal Skills

1. What do you think are the most important skills necessary to build successful business relationships? How have you leveraged these skills in your career?
2. Describe a situation where you had a conflict with a coworker and how you dealt with it. What was the outcome? 3. What were the most important skills needed to address the situation? Were you happy with the outcome?

Interview Questions to Assess Sales Skills

1. Describe a situation where you had to create a customer base from scratch. What steps did you take?
2. What is your greatest achievement in sales? How did you reach that outcome?
3. Describe the process you went through to convince a skeptical prospect to choose your product/service?

Tenacity and Resilience

1. Tell me about a work-related setback and challenge that you faced. How did you deal with and move past it?
2. Have you ever found yourself in a competitive situation at work? How did you deal with it?
3. When have you seen your tenacity and determination really pay off in a professional setting? What was the situation and the outcome?

Cementation Skanska win 1km long HS2 retaining box

Cementation Skanska has secured the £93m job to create one of the largest current open-cut retaining boxes in Europe – equivalent in size to four football pitches.

HS2 approach route to Euston station

HS2 approach route to Euston station

The huge piling job for HS2 consortium Skanska Costain Strabag will involve installing 2,000 piles along the near 1km long site that will house rail lines coming into Euston station for the new HS2 railway.

More than 800 piles will be installed in creating the new Euston scissor box that will carry the new running lines.

Works will also be carried out to construct some 700 piles for two new bridge structures – Hampstead Road Bridge and Granby Terrace Bridge – that will take traffic over the new lines.

This is in addition to 418 piles for the Euston Throat Retained Cut, an extension to the scissor box, and 106 piles for the new Euston Cavern shaft.

As part of the project, the team will be developing new techniques to reduce carbon, including through the use of low carbon concrete.

“We are delighted to be working on this iconic project,” said Operations Director Paul Wiltcher.

“The project provides work for around 100 of our piling and ground engineering team who will be carrying out the works through to 2024. ”

It is the third major piling job to be awarded on the project as work steps up a gear for phase one.

A joint venture between Bauer and Keller has been awarded a contract to deliver geotechnical work along a 80km stretch of HS2 between the Chilterns and Warwickshire.

The joint venture announced it had formally signed off the £95m deal today with C2 and C3 section main works consortium Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall.

At peak production, the works will require over 200 highly skilled experts in ground engineering and foundations, working in a number of varied site locations.

The largest deal so far has been nabbed by Keller and VSL International joint venture.

This secured a £167m contract to deliver geotechnical work for C1 section main contractor Align.

KVJV’s scope of work is to construct the piled foundations for the viaducts, grouting works, retaining structures for four ventilation shafts, and ground improvement works for the execution of the tunnel cross passages.

At peak of the production it will require 270 highly skilled people working on site.

Construction Activity is set for double-digit growth in 2021

Construction activity is set for double-digit growth this year as the industry continues its strong rebound from the impact of Covid.

But crystal ball gazers at the Construction Product Association have downgraded growth forecasts slightly fearing impacts from supply constraints for key imported construction products and uncertainty around demand for housing new builds, and commercial space.

Construction activity accelerated in the first quarter of the year, although the story varies from sector to sector.

Infrastructure was least affected by the initial lockdown, and is set to motor ahead 29%, reaching its highest level on record.

This will be driven by activity on major projects such as HS2, as well as activity on long-term frameworks in water, roads, electricity and broadband sectors.

Key points

  • Infrastructure output to rise 29% in 2021 and 6% in 2022
  • Private housing output rises 14% in 2021
  • Commercial output at the end of 2023 to be 10.5% lower than in 2019
  • Private housing RM&I to grow by 12% in 2021
  • Public housing repair, maintenance and improvement to rise by 15% in 2021

Extensions to the stamp duty holiday, Help to Buy and job support schemes are expected to help sustain demand in private housing and private housing rm&i in 2021.

Private housing is expected to continue its strong recovery with the Chancellor’s mortgage guarantee scheme likely to enable demand in the general housing market.

Coupled with expectations of rising house prices during the year, starts activity is forecast to gather pace in 2022.

CPA economics director Noble Francis, said: “While outlook is largely positive, the recovery in commercial – the third-largest construction sector – is expected to be muted given a lack of major investment in new projects, particularly in Central London.

“Questions remain over future demand of commercial space, particularly in offices and retail, which may be converted into residential or warehousing and logistics, if homeworking and online spending persists in the long-term.

“This may hinder the ability of construction activity to increase in line with our forecast.

“Furthermore, concerns remain whether the high levels of demand for housing new build and rm&i can be maintained after the government stimulus and policy measures end on 30 September, particularly the furloughing and self-employment income schemes and stamp duty holiday.”


Now the UK’s lockdown exit plans have been set out and as the economy gradually starts to open again, many businesses will see this as a return towards normality. But in many ways, the world of work will look very different post-Covid. Alongside the changes the pandemic has forced on us, we now have a chance to create a better labour market – and one important way we can do this is by making it more inclusive and making sure companies provide opportunities for a more diverse range of people.

There has been a great deal of progress on diversity and inclusion in recent years. In the REC’s new Recruitment and recovery study, we found that almost two thirds (64%) of businesses believed they were doing well at reducing unconscious bias. But we all know that there is much more still to do. We’ve all seen the gender pay gap statistics and the studies showing how CVs with a white-sounding name are far more likely to get a response than those with a name from an ethnic minority – even when the content is identical.

Our Recruitment and recovery report also found some worrying signs of a lack of focus from employers. Just three in ten companies said that they were focusing more on increasing the diversity of their workforce, and 45% of SMEs admitted that increasing the diversity of their staff was not a priority. No wonder less than half (44%) of the British public thought that the process of recruitment was inclusive to people like them.

The recruitment process can be an incredibly important tool in improving inclusion in a business. Anonymising CVs, using diverse interview panels, offering flexible working options from the outset – all of these can be valuable steps to increasing the range of candidates who will apply for a role or improving the selection process. But while both businesses and the public say that these are important in principle, in practice they are rare.

This is where professional recruitment businesses can prove their worth. Many businesses have taken their eye off the ball on inclusion – understandably due to the pandemic – but it is up to their recruitment partners to remind them how important this issue is and the many ways that it can benefit both their bottom line and the people working for them. And we know this can work – two in three (63%) companies said that working with a recruitment agency had helped them increase the diversity of new hires.

For recruiters, this means helping clients to audit and evaluate their selection and hiring processes regularly, specifically with diversity and inclusion in mind, as well as advising them on whether they might need to bring in tools like unconscious bias training for hiring managers, anonymising CVs, and standardised selection criteria that can help judge which candidate is right for a role, no matter their background.

With so much change already having happened in the labour market and more on the horizon, now is the perfect time to change things for the better, and make the future of work a more inclusive one.page9image34586816page9image34594496page9image34591616page9image34590464