Business optimism for 2022 has dropped with recruitment struggles listed as a major concern alongside the increased worry of rising inflation and supply disruption.

The latest quarterly RSM Real Economy report revealed that nearly two-thirds of businesses, 61% are currently finding staff recruitment ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ challenging. 

The report found that the issues with recruitment have affected business growth with around a third, 34%, of businesses stating that they have had to delay expansion plans as a result with almost a third, 30%, stating that they have had to turn business away.

According to Office of National Statistics (ONS) employment statistics, vacancies have reached a record high of 1.2m, and total job-to-job moves have also increased to a high of 979,000, largely driven by resignations rather than dismissals.

Steve Sweetlove, pay and people partner, RSM UK, said: ‘The current recruitment landscape presents a huge challenge for businesses, with many putting plans for expansion on ice, turning business away and even closing some sites completely due to a lack of skilled workers. Between Brexit, coronavirus and supply chain issues, businesses have had a lot thrown at them lately.’

Coined ‘the great resignation’, it is not the only issue businesses are worried about going into 2022. The recent Global Economic Conditions survey (GECS), which included 2,471 responses from ACCA and IMA members, highlighted the five biggest risks that businesses perceive for the next year.

Around 70% of respondents cited a new wave of Covid-19 as the biggest risk, 45% listed supply shortages and chain disruption, 25% pointed to increases in interest rates in response to rising inflation, and 20% said the withdrawal of fiscal support measures and higher taxation.

Concerns about operating costs also increased in the last quarter and reported as 55 on the ACCA index, which is the highest level seen since Q1 of 2019.

ACCA states that the concern for operating costs will ‘likely stay elevated’ throughout 2022 as energy and transport costs have driven input costs up throughout the last quarter, rising wages was also highlighted as an increased concern due to increasing inflation.

The report also revealed that economic confidence from accountants fell significantly in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021, the index figure dropped 22 points amongst UK respondents from 24 to two.

The drop in confidence was most likely due to the rising spread of the Omicron variant as the survey was conducted at the beginning of December.

Michael Taylor, chief economist, ACCA said: ‘Accountants are often the first to sense the impact of economic activity, informed by the work they do on a daily basis sustaining economies and from the feedback from their clients, especially in the small business sector.

‘The survey reveals their concerns about costs increasing again, seeing this measure double over the course of 2021, indicating growing inflationary pressures in many markets around the world.’