A study has shown a huge unexpected boost in hospitality employment, but the firm behind the figures claims it reveals a sector 'desperate' to fill vacancies ahead of Brexit.
The ManpowerGroup employment outlook survey based its findings on responses from more than 2,000 employers in the UK and their hiring strategies.
It discovered a 14 point uplift in employment to +16 per cent year-on-year, which would normally be seen as a very positive sign for the sector. But the firm claimed it was a 'mirage' that showed 'worrying signs' of surface-level optimism 'masking a more uncertain reality'.
The hospitality industry, which includes pubs, hires some 24 per cent of workers from the EU among its 3 million strong workforce across the UK.
James Hick, managing director for ManpowerGroup Enterprise, said the image of the high street revealed a different landscape.
He said: "On the surface, this might look like a (hospitality) sector that is firing on all cylinders, but this is at odds with the almost daily diet of news about struggles in the sector, such as Jamie's Italian, which is closing a third of its sites and Byron Burger, which is closing up to 20 branches as part of a rescue plan."
It follows reports in recent weeks of the number of EU workers arriving in the UK falling – especially from eastern Europe.
Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UKHospitality, the new trade association for the hospitality industry, outlined the importance of ensuring the sector had the skills it needed to thrive.
"Generating £130bn in revenue each year, the hospitality sector is a key driver of the UK economy," she said. "Due to our rapid growth and strong trajectory, a high proportion of our skilled teams come from outside the UK.
"In order to keep the sector growing we need a new ministerial champion and sector deal that encourages increased, sustainable investment in skills and world-class careers."