Uncertainty over what Brexit means to foreign workers in Britain has led to the biggest shortfall in workers in 30 years, a survey released Thursday shows.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey of 6,000 firms highlighted the extent to which labour shortages have risen as Brexit gets closer, as 81 percent of manufacturers looking for workers reported difficulties in finding staff with the right skills.
"The labour market is getting tighter and tighter and we are seeing it at all skill levels now and the number of companies struggling to fill posts is at a historic high, the highest we have seen in the entire 30-year history of our survey," Mike Spicer, director of research and economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), told Xinhua.
The latest unemployment rate, for the three months from August to October, is 4.1 percent, a low not seen for more than 40 years and there is a near-record number of jobs in the economy.
Foreign workers, especially those from the European Union (EU) are uncertain of their future status under Brexit. Currently, EU workers can move, live and work freely in Britain, but this situation could undergo significant change in any form of Brexit.
"Across the economy companies are experiencing recruitment difficulties with a very low rate of unemployment in the UK which means there is no big pool of labour for companies to draw on."
The manufacturing sector had an underwhelming fourth quarter in 2018, with significant cost pressures and moderating global demand weighing on activity in the sector, according to the BCC's quarterly economic report.
The survey found that an increase in cost pressures for businesses in the quarter will force inflation higher over the near term, with the continued weakness in sterling maintaining the upward trend on the cost of imported raw materials.
In the services sector, the main driver of economic growth, the percentage of firms reporting an increase in domestic sales and orders weakened to their lowest level in two years. Domestic activity among manufacturers also moderated in the quarter.
"The British economy has ended the year in a holding pattern -- not contracting but not growing either. It is limping along at a slow pace," said Spicer.
"Businesses saw evidence of further pressure on prices likely to lead to higher consumer prices in future. The share of producers expecting to raise prices now is three times the pre-referendum average and is the highest it has been for a year," Spicer added.