Lack of skilled workers remains urgent, says Chamber of Commerce

Economic mood improves slightly in Hamburg especially in financial, manufacturing and hospitality sectors - lack of skilled labour biggest headache
14 July 2023
Handelskammer

The current predominantly positive business mood and optimistic export prospects in Hamburg have been dampened by pessimistic business expectations for the next 12 months, according to the Chamber of Commerce's latest economic barometer. The shortage of skilled workers remains one of the biggest risks to business. Around 550 Hamburg companies were surveyed between June 22 and July 6, 2023 for the report, a press release said Thursday (July 13, 2023).

Good mood in financial, manufacturing and hospitality sectors

"Commerce in Hamburg is struggling and resisting negative influencing factors. An across-the-board recovery or even an upswing is not in sight due to the increasingly noticeable structural challenges," said Malte Heyne, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in Hamburg. Around 55 per cent of those surveyed termed their current business situation "satisfactory or seasonal", just under a third as "good", and 15 per cent as "poor". A good half expect their business to remain unchanged while 14 per cent expect the situation to improve. More than one-third of businesses anticipate a rather unfavourable development. "The persistently high inflation is depressing sales expectations. The Hamburg media centre has also encountered  several severe setbacks recently," Heyne pointed out. At the end of Q2, the business moods was down in the transport sector (-32 points), public relations and management consultancies (-32), construction (-35), especially retail (-45), wholesale and foreign trade (-47), as well as in property and and housing (-51). Companies in the financial, manufacturing and hospitality sectors rated their situation as particularly favourable. Business and personal service providers (+6 points) and the health care (+14) sector also expressed optimism.

Positive outlook on exports

However, companies are holding back on new investments due to "generally pessimistic business expectations". One in two companies plans to spend about the same amount over the next twelve months, while 24 per cent intend to invest more. About 15 per cent plan to employ fewer people, 13 per cent plan to hire more staff, and 72 per cent expect their workforce to remain constant. Heyne noted: "Despite negative expectations, many companies in Hamburg are looking for reinforcements as employees are retiring or changing employers. This turnover ensures that companies are desperate for new employees, even though this is not reflected in our survey. Most companies cite the skills shortage as one of the biggest risks to business." Some 1,300 apprenticeship positions remain vacant. One in two companies cited weak domestic demand, energy and commodity prices, and high labour costs as other major business risks. Weak foreign demand, financing difficulties and exchange rate risks were also cited. However, companies were optimistic about exports. Around 29 per cent of respondents expect higher export volumes, while 17 per cent anticipate reduced volumes.

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