Business leaders as well as trade unions say the labour market is still struggling to settle after the turbulence caused by the coronavirus-related closures and other measures, pointing to a high number of vacancies despite the rebound in economic activity.

Data recently released by Eurostat and Cystat show vacancies at the end of the second quarter this year came to 7,397 – a 77.3 per cent rise on the same quarter last year.

It marked the largest increase across the EU for this metric.

Most vacancies are tracked in the restaurant and hotel businesses, which also happen to have the highest number of registered unemployed.

The number of jobless in these two sectors came to 5,595 at the end of August. Next came the wholesale and retail industry, with 5,164 out of work.

Newcomers to the labour market amounted to 2,087, and to 1,979 persons in construction.

Filokypros Rousounides, director of the hoteliers association, told news outlet Stockwatch about the problems in recruiting staff.

“There are not enough people available who could be employed in the hotel industry. Due to the pandemic, many seasonal workers left and never returned,” he said.

At the same time, uncertainty over job security in the hotel business has led a number of workers to leave and switch careers.

Fanos Leventis, head of the association of owners of recreation establishments, said despite the high number of registered unemployed on the books, when these people get contacted by businesses they often say they are not interested.

Bars and other leisure establishments cannot find specialised staff, he added, and efforts are underway to employ non-EU nationals.

For his part, Marios Tsiakis of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said they have raised the issue of the lack of workers with the labour minister.

He likewise noted that a great deal of EU nationals on work permits here have gone back to their countries – and Cypriots are not willing to take up these jobs.

But he added another parameter – many receiving benefits have stopped looking for full-time work, instead finding part-time gigs to complement their income.

“For this reason businesses want to be allowed to employ workers from non-EU countries, or asylum seekers or foreign students where permissible,” Tsiakis told Stockwatch.

Pambis Kiritis, head of the left-leaning trade union PEO, referred to a shortage of unskilled labour, observed primarily in the hotel business.

He also said that recent university graduates were not being easily absorbed into the labour market.