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Pubs and restaurants in the UK are scrapping hiring plans amid signs that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is killing off the Christmas party season.

Figures from Adzuna, an online jobs portal, show that adverts for hospitality and catering posts have fallen 25% in a week. Meanwhile, Bloomberg analysis of OpenTable restaurant bookings data reveals that seatings have collapsed since the new variant emerged in late November. 

The number of advertised hospitality jobs on December 5 was 80,327, down from 107,782 the week before to the lowest level since the start of August, Adzuna said.

The drop in vacancies bucked seasonal trends and confirmed that the hospitality and catering sector had already been “hard hit by cancelled Christmas party bookings and diners eating out less amid caution around Omicron”, Adzuna said.

The variant is ripping through the UK, with cases doubling every three days, according to government scientific advisers. Epidemiologists have warned Omicron could supplant Delta as the dominant variant within weeks. 

OpenTable data for the UK studied by Bloomberg showed that bookings across the country plummeted last week, after the Omicron threat emerged. 

For the week ending December 3, the five-day weekday average of seated diners was down 1.19% compared with the equivalent week in 2019. The previous week, bookings were 10% ahead of 2019 levels. 

It was the first time the measure has been negative in over six months, since the week ending May 14. 

For London, which has been persistently below the 2019 baseline, bookings were down 26.6%, the lowest since early August, when the holiday season was in full swing and workers were likely to be away. 

“Employers are holding back as they wait and see the effect of the variant, be that cancelled Christmas bookings or staffing issues caused by employees needing to isolate,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. 

“We normally start to see a seasonal slowdown towards the end of the year, but it looks like Omicron has slammed the brakes on early for hospitality.”

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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