Recruitment Market Update

Bringing you the latest industry updates regarding the temporary and permanent employment market, collecting data sourced from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), KPMG and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). We hope you find it informative and a source of valuable information.
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November 2021 Update

Despite furlough coming to an end, October data signalled a continued strong rise in recruitment activity across the UK, with unemployment falling towards pre-pandemic levels and employment growth in evidence.

Candidate shortages remain in all sectors across the economy with data highlighting that employers have been raising starting salaries at record pace to try and attract the best candidates.  However, nearly 2.2 million people started new jobs in the summer – the highest level and rate in at least 20 years.  This increase in employment was driven by a record high flow of 304,000 people from unemployment to employment, largely caused by resignations, rather than dismissals.

The combination of falling unemployment and vacancies growing from strength to strength across all industries has resulted in the lowest number of unemployed people per vacancy since at least the 1960s.

The availability of candidates simply cannot keep up with vacancy demand which is holding back growth and adding to inflation.  One cause of these issues is far lower labour market participation than on pre-pandemic trends.

Industry experts predict that the mismatch between demand and supply will continue and the solution lies through measures to increase supply participation and improve skills matches.  More focus needs to be on supporting those out of work and those not looking for work.  Companies also need to continue to do more support retention work and more inclusive recruitment, offering greater flexibility, job security, training and induction combined with wellbeing in the workplace support.

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS and REC: 

  • Inflation rate increases to 4.2% in October.
  • The number of job vacancies in August to October 2021 continued to a new record of 1,172,000, an increase of 388,000 from its pre-pandemic (January to March 2020) level.
  • The UK employment rate increased by 0.4% on the quarter to 75.4%.
  • The UK unemployment rate decreased by 0.5% on the quarter to 4.3%.

Commenting on the latest survey results, Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK, said: 

“While its encouraging to see hiring activity increase in October, the recovery was at the softest rate recorded in six months due to the ongoing deterioration of candidate availability.  Employees are hesitant to switch roles and sectors, which could impact the bounce-back recruiters have experienced since the easing of pandemic restrictions.  

More broadly, companies are still offering higher salaries to attract and secure talent – with starting pay inflation reaching another record high this month – but we know this isn’t the answer to boosting productivity.

Job seekers need to feel confident that the skills and qualifications they’ve gained in one sector are valued in another.  That’s why employers and Government must urgently invest in training and development if they are to attract a wider range of candidates into these high demand sectors.

October 2021 Update

September saw a continued rise in recruitment activity across the UK, driven by robust demand for staff and rising economic activity.  At the same time, a near-record fall in candidate availability drove substantial increases in starting pay. Notably, permanent starters’ salaries and temp wages both rose at the sharpest rates in 24 years. 

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) responded by pushing on with their campaign requesting that the government and businesses address the issues outlined in September’s update below.  Their latest activity throughout October included:

  • Meeting with the Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP, on 21st October to refresh and re-sign the partnership agreement between the REC and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). 

  • Giving evidence to the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee on 19th October, telling MPs that government must overhaul the skills system in order to solve current and future labour shortage issues.

  • Ahead of the Budget, urging the Treasury to consider how the spending review will enable businesses to drive prosperity in the years to come and help firms to increase investment in technology, skills and management practices.

  • Writing to Simon Clarke MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last week warning that the current trend of rising wages is only affordable if they rise sustainably alongside improvements in productivity, advising that the only workable answer to this lies in increasing business investment across the board.

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS and the REC:

  • In the week 4-10 October, there were 2.29 million active job adverts in the UK, a new record high, with growth in job adverts showing no signs of slowing down.
  • Inflation rate falls to 2.9% in the year to September 2021. 
  • Permanent placement growth expanded at a pace only slightly lower than August’s all-time high with temporary billings remaining marked.
  • The number of job vacancies in July to September 2021 was a record high of 1,102,000, an increase of 318,000 from its pre-pandemic (January to March 2020) level; this was the second consecutive month that the three-month average has risen over one million.
  • The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.3%, 1.3% lower than before the pandemic (December 2019 to February 2020), but 0.5% higher than the previous quarter (March
    to May 2021).
  • The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.5%, 0.5% higher than before the pandemic, but 0.4% lower than the previous quarter.  
  • The redundancy rate remains at pre-pandemic levels.

Whilst presenting evidence to the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said:

“We need a revolution on how we offer training for work if the UK is to fully recover from the pandemic and prosper in the coming months and years. This includes broadening the apprenticeship levy so that funds can be used on other accredited training at levels that will help young people into work and support the levelling up agenda, rather than being spent on in work graduates.

As part of the session, he also told the committee that immigration is one part of the solution to solving the current shortage and supply chain problems.

“Immigration policy has been stuck in a Brexit time-warp. For businesses, Brexit is done – what we need is an immigration system that works for the economy.”

 

September 2021 Update

August saw a further rapid increase in hiring activity as improved confidence in the market led businesses to pursue their recruitment plans.  With demand for staff close to an all-time high and vacancies rising by 35% in the space of three months; in an effort to solve the candidate shortage crisis, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) responded by requesting that the government and businesses: 

  • Set up a new cross-government and industry forum including industry experts; Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for Education (DfE) and Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).
  • Allow flexibility in the points-based immigration system and a visa route for lower skilled workers to enable logistics to access staff at times of need.
  • Broaden the apprenticeship levy and increase funding for training at lower skill levels to help transition opportunities for temporary workers to encourage business to do more in the UK. 
  • Increase focus from businesses on workforce planning, staff engagement, attraction and retention policies.  Needs to be addressed at senior leadership level and firms are to be encouraged to work with key professional partners, such as recruiters, to boost performance, productivity and staff wellbeing.

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS and the REC:

  • Unprecedented drop in candidate supply drives sharper increases in pay – the declines are attributed to a reluctance among employees to switch roles due to the pandemic, fewer EU workers, furloughed staff and skill shortages.
  • The labour market shows continuing recovery with a quarterly increase in the employment rate, while the unemployment and economic inactivity rates decreased. 
  • Permanent placement growth hits a record high with temporary billings rising sharply.
  • The UK employment rate is estimated at 75.2%, 1.3% lower than before the pandemic, but 0.5% higher than the previous quarter.
  • The UK unemployment rate is estimated at 4.6%, 0.6% higher than before the pandemic, but 0.3% lower than the previous quarter.  
  • The number of part-time workers decreased strongly during the pandemic, but surprisingly has been increasing since April 2021, making up the majority of the increase in employment in the last period.

With the furlough scheme due to close at the end of this month, some economists have said that the economy appeared to be well prepared for the end of furlough, suggesting that record job vacancies could help prevent a sharp rise in unemployment.  

However, Nye Cominetti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:

There is still ground to make up in the labour market.  With the furlough scheme ending in September, we should expect a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn, particularly among furloughed staff that aren’t able to return to their previous jobs.”

Commenting on the latest labour market survey results, Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK, said:

Candidate shortages continue to plague businesses, who are all recruiting from the same pool of talent and struggling to fill gaps.  While record high permanent placements and higher starting salaries mean it remains a job seeker’s market, recruiters and employers have seen the most severe decline of candidate availability in our survey’s history and will be thinking about how to attract and retain new staff.

This crisis isn’t going away, and the winding down of the furlough scheme at the end of September – while potentially bringing more job hunters to the market – could also add fuel to the labour shortage fire.  Many businesses will have changed their business model during the pandemic, and so significant numbers of staff returning from furlough may need reskilling to rejoin the workforce in the same or another sector.

Right now, businesses can lead the way by working with government and civic leaders to rapidly address the reskilling and upskilling that is so urgently needed.”

August 2021 Update

As seen in recent news reports, July saw a record rise in job vacancies since the beginning of the pandemic – exceeding over 1 million in the month! 

Whilst this may indicate a positive sign of the continued post-pandemic recovery, it is against a backdrop of of the worst staff shortages since the late 1990s. The outcome is  pressure on pay with starting salaries rising at the fastest rate in over 20 years and hourly pay rates for temporary/contract workers starting to increase.

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS and the REC:

  • The most recent data show the labour market continuing to recover.
  • The single month vacancy estimates in July exceeded 1,000,000 for the first time since the pandemic.
  • There were around 204,000 new job adverts posted in the first week alone in August, resulting in 1.65 million active job adverts in the same week in the UK (including unfilled July vacancies carried into this month) . 
  • There were an estimated 953,000 job vacancies in May to July 2021, a record high, having grown by 290,000 compared with the previous quarter and 168,000 more than its pre-pandemic level (January to March 2020).
  • In the latest period (April to June 2021), there was a quarterly increase in the employment rate of 0.3 percentage points, to 75.1%, and a decrease in the unemployment rate of 0.2 percentage points, to 4.7%.
  • The economic inactivity rate is down 0.2 percentage points on the previous quarter, to 21.1%.
  • With the relaxation of many coronavirus restrictions, total hours worked increased on the quarter, however, it is still below pre-pandemic levels. The redundancy rate decreased on the quarter and has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

In response to the latest labour market figures published by the ONS, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

The robust jobs recovery suggested by business surveys is confirmed by the [ONS] figures, and that is great news. But record vacancy numbers once again emphasise the risk posed by labour shortages in many key sectors. The number of vacancies is now at an all-time high and is still rising, with employers desperate to hire new staff as the economy recovers. The increase in temporary workers again emphasises the vital role this type of engagement plays in helping firms stay productive when skills are scarce.

According to ‘UK Report on Jobs’ published by KPMG and REC, the continued decline of candidates in July was driven by concerns over job security due to the pandemic, a lack of European workers due to Brexit, and a generally low unemployment rate. As a result, pay pressures intensified, with starting salaries rising at the fastest rate in the survey history, and temp pay inflation also accelerating notably on the month. 

Commenting on the latest survey results from the report Kate Shoesmith, Deputy Chief Executive of the REC said:

“This month’s data confirms that it is a good time to be a looking for a new job. Employers are desperate to find good candidates for the many jobs on offer and this is reflected in starting salaries rising at the sharpest rate since the survey began in 1997. This will likely motivate more people to be on the lookout for new opportunities. The same goes for those on temporary contracts which are also seeing increased pay. Recruiters are working hard to fill places for employers eager to build back and recover but their job is made more difficult by worker shortages across all sectors.”

July 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the REC and ONS:

  • Statistics show that the capital’s job market is back in action as six out of the UK’s top ten hiring hotspots were in London this month.
  •           The latest data for vacancies shows continued growth and stability with 194,000 new job adverts posted in early July, giving a total of 1.57 million active job postings in the UK.  The number of vacancies is now above its pre-pandemic level in Jan-March 2020, the first time it has been surpassed in 15 months.
  •           In sharp contrast, candidate shortage is at unprecedented levels with availability reportedly at a 24-year low.  A survey undertaken by KPMG identified that the supply of candidates has fallen for the fourth month in a row, with increased hiring, Brexit, pandemic-related uncertainty and furlough schemes being blamed.
  • The UK employment rate for all people (aged 16 and over) has decreased to 74.8%, 1.8 percentage points lower than before the pandemic, but 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.
  • The employment market is still showing an increase in recruitment activity for both temporary and permanent billings as employers’ confidence in hiring and investment continues to improve.  With growth in permanent placements being seen consistently over the past four months.
  • The UK unemployment rate for all people (aged 16 and over) was 4.8%, 0.9 percentage points higher than before the pandemic, but 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.
  • The redundancy rate has continued to decrease to 3.8 per thousand employees on the quarter, similar to pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time, the FT is reporting that across advanced economies there is a mismatch between those out of work and the jobs available.  According to a report by the OECD released earlier this month, low-skilled workers, who were most likely to lose their jobs at the start of the pandemic are ill-prepared to move into sectors where hiring is strongest.  

Commenting on the report, Stefano Scarpetta, Director for Employment, Labour & Social Affairs, of the OECD, said:

“….A widening gap may develop between those who have weathered the crisis through reduced hours and short periods on temporary lay-off, and those who have found themselves jobless — increasingly distant from the labour force, exhausting benefit entitlements and risking long-term scars.  At the beginning of the crisis, low-skilled workers were more likely to lose their jobs. High-skilled workers were more likely to reduce their working time”

The OECD reported there was evidence that many of the jobs hit hardest by the pandemic were already at risk of being replaced by automation before the crisis, and could now disappear as the adoption of digital technologies gathers pace.

Scarpetta said …..“this was evidence that governments should make job retention schemes more targeted to ensure they did not prop up businesses that are unlikely to survive in the open market. Governments should also provide incentives for businesses to create jobs, and steer workers towards sectors that are expanding through hiring subsidies, mobility bonuses and concerted efforts to help adults retrain.”

June 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS:

  •       Following a period of employment growth and low unemployment since the start of the pandemic, employment had generally been decreasing and unemployment increasing. However, the latest estimates (February to April 2021) continue to show signs of recovery. There was a quarterly increase in the employment rate of 0.2 percentage points to 75.2% and a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate of 0.3 percentage points to 4.7%.
  • The economic inactivity rate was largely unchanged on the previous quarter at 21.0%.
  • March to May 2021 saw quarterly growth in vacancies of 24.0% (146,600) compared with last quarter, with all but one industry increasing their number of vacancies.
  •  The estimated number of vacancies reached its highest level since January to March 2020 (which is a pre-pandemic period), with growth continuing in the most recent quarterly estimates.

 

The ONS job vacancy figures are supported by the latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey. May survey data (collected between May 12-24) highlighted a sharp and accelerated rise in vacancies, with the latest upturn the most marked since January 1998. Substantial increases in demand were signaled for both permanent and temporary staff, with the former seeing the slightly steeper rate of growth.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

Data for the past month shows hiring in the UK recovering to normal levels, though there remain some differences between sectors and local areas. As pandemic restrictions have lifted, we have seen an explosion in job vacancies as companies rush to hire ahead of re-opening”

The survey’s authors say skills and labour shortages, that already existed before the pandemic, are now the most pressing issue in the jobs market.

Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) said:

With the demand spiking, the skills and labour shortages that already existed in the UK have come into sharper focus – and Covid has only made them worse”

May 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the REC and ONS:

  •           The latest data for vacancies shows a record high since the start of the pandemic, with 211,000 new job adverts at the end of April followed by 181,000 new job adverts posted in the first week of May, giving a total of 1.53 million active job adverts in the UK.  This upturn in demand is the quickest rate seen for 23 years!
  •           Unsurprisingly, after stabilising in March, candidate availability fell in April at the sharpest rate since January 2020, linked to uncertainty caused by the pandemic preventing candidates seeking new roles, Brexit, IR35 legislation and furlough.
  • Annual growth in average employee pay continues to strengthen, driven in part by the effects of a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs.
  • The UK employment rate for all people (aged 16 and over) continues to rise at 75.2%, growing to 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.
  • The start of the second quarter has shown a marked increase in recruitment activity as employers’ confidence in hiring and investment continues to improve, with permanent placements expanding at the sharpest rate since October 1997 and the demand for temporary workers remaining historically strong.
  • The estimated UK unemployment rate for all people (aged 16 and over) was 4.8%, 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous quarter and the third consecutive monthly fall.
  • The redundancy rate decreased by a record 6.9 per thousand on the quarter to 5.50 people per thousand employees.

January to March 2021 estimates show signs of recovery with a quarterly increase in the employment rate, combined with a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate, partly due to a flow of 132,000 people moving from unemployment to employment.

Commenting on the latest results, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“… The jobs market is improving at one of the fastest rates we have ever seen, and that’s great news.  We are bouncing back from a record low – and many people are still struggling – but the data shows that job creation is firing back again.  This month’s numbers for permanent hiring are the best we have seen since 1997.  Temporary hiring has chalked up its ninth straight month of growth, demonstrating how important temporary agency work is to getting families and businesses back on their feet.”

April 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS:

  •           On a positive note, unemployment for the period December 2020 to February 2021 for all people (aged 16 years and over) dropped unexpectedly to 4.9%; the first quarterly decrease the market has seen since October to December 2019 and the second fall seen consecutively across two months.
  • There are welcome signs of vacancy recovery with data for early March 2021 hitting 181,000 new job adverts, the highest weekly figure since early 2020.  This rise in hiring activity clearly indicates an increase in business confidence as lockdown restrictions are eased, with statistics indicating an acceleration in April.   In contrast, reports suggest the availability of candidates remains stagnant, largely due to concerns around how secure any new employment would be.
  • Redundancy reports show a record decrease on the quarter to 7.3 per thousand, substantially lower than the record high of 14.2 per thousand in the period September to November 2020.
  • March highlighted improved pay trends for both permanent and temporary workers driven by market confidence and an increase in the demand for staff with starting salaries rising for the first time in 2021 to date, with the rate of inflation the fastest seen since December 2019.
  • Employers’ confidence in hiring and investment is improving with data showing that intentions to hire permanent staff remain high with the fastest rise in permanent placements seen since 2015.  March also saw the demand for temporary agency workers significantly increasing from the previous quarter.

With the percentage of UK businesses trading in April increasing to 77%, it’s encouraging to see the job market showing signs of recovery.

Commenting on the latest results, Claire Warnes, Partner and Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK, said:

“… The UK job market is starting to rebound off the back of the Government’s plan to ease national lockdown measures over the coming months, with the highest rise in permanent placements in six years and a sharp increase in temporary billings.

This is good news for businesses, job seekers and the UK economy, but employers are still identifying a big skills gap across sectors including IT, construction and retail, with demand and supply not matching up.

That’s why, as we start to look beyond the pandemic, businesses will be even more crucial in making sure prospective and current employees are adaptable, productive and ready for new challenges.”

March 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS:

  • The UK employment rate dropped by 1.5 percentage points on the previous year to 75.0% and fell by 0.3 percentage points compared with the previous quarter (August-October).
  •          The UK unemployment rate for all people (aged 16 years and over September-November 2020) was 5.0%; this is 1.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, though the increase is smaller than in recent periods.
  • The latest data shows vacancy recovery has stalled with an estimated 601,000 vacancies from December-February 2021, this is 26.8% fewer than a year earlier.  However, this is an improvement on the position in summer 2020 when vacancies were down by nearly 60% year on year.
  • Annual growth in average employee pay continues to strengthen, driven in part by the effects of a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs and by increased bonuses, which were postponed from last year.
  • The total number of weekly hours worked was 968.0 million, down 83.1 million hours on the same period the previous year, but up 8.0 million hours compared with the previous quarter.
  • The redundancy rate for the latest quarter was estimated at 11.0 people per thousand employees, however this has decreased by 2.3 thousand on the last quarter, which was a record high.

The good news is that 68,000 more people were in payrolled employment in February 2021, an increase of 0.2%, when compared to January 2021; this is the third consecutive monthly increase. 

Commenting on the latest survey results, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“… The growth in temporary employment shows how important temping is to getting people into work quickly, and helping businesses grow  in unpredictable times.  The economy is well-placed to bounce back as restrictions are lifted – but many people will need support transitioning into the new roles that emerge.”

February 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS (September – November 2020):

  • The UK employment rate dropped by 1.1 percentage points on the previous year to 75.2% and fell by 0.4 percentage points compared with the previous quarter (June-August 2020).
  •          The latest data shows that the economy (GDP) increased by 1.2% in December 2020, following a revised 2.3% decline in November where there were more extensive restrictions to activity.  GDP grew by 1% in Quarter 4 (Oct-Dec), following revised 16.1% growth in Quarter 3 (July-Sept).   
  •          Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among employees for this period increased to 3.6% and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) also increased to 3.5%; this impact is caused by a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid jobs compared with before the pandemic.
  • In real terms, total pay and regular pay is now growing at a faster rate than inflation, at +2.8%.  Average pay has rebounded from the sharp falls during early summer 2020, with regular pay in November being at a record high.

  • The estimated UK unemployment rate for all people (aged 16 years and over September to November 2020) was 5.0%; this is 1.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.6 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.   
  •          The proportion of workforce on furlough increased through November 2020, reaching 16% in the period 16-29th November, but it then decreased to 11% between 30th November – 13th December 2020.

 

Permanent placements in January fell after a mild upturn in December, driven by the reintroduction of national lockdown measures, however REC research produced in partnership with KPMG this month showed that temporary recruitment grew in January for the sixth month in a row, whilst growth in short-term vacancies moderated.

Commenting on the latest survey results, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“With the vaccination programme making progress, it’s likely that a path out of the pandemic is emerging.  As that happens, we expect a strong recovery in permanent hiring.”

January 2021 Update

According to the latest employment figures from the ONS (August – October 2020):

  • The UK employment rate dropped by 0.9% percentage points on the previous year to 75.2% and fell by 0.5% percentage points compared with the previous quarter (May-July 2020).
  •          This quarter saw a real term growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among employees. For the three months August to October 2020 average pay increased to 2.7% and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) also increased to 2.8%. For total pay, this is the first time that the index has been on positive territory since the three months to March 2020.
  •          The estimated UK unemployment rate for all people (aged 16 years and over August to October 2020) was 4.9%; this is 1.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.7 percentage points higher than the previous quarter. For context full employment in the UK is considered 5%.
  • Surprisingly, this quarter employment rates increased for women. Estimated employment rates for men are down 1.9% on the previous year. However, the employment rates for women are 0.1% up on the previous year.
  • Business hiring confidence increased as growth has been identified in the vacancy sector with 1.77 million active UK job adverts in December 2020, which is approximately 10.5% more than in December 2019.
  •          Estimates for August to October 2020 show 32.52 million people aged 16 years and over in employment, 280,000 fewer than a year earlier. This was the largest annual decrease since January to March 2010.

However, REC research produced in partnership with KPMG this month showed that total demand for staff has risen for first time in three months, with temporary vacancies rising at a much steeper rate (up by 26% compared to last year) than that seen for permanent workers. It was encouraging to read the comments of Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC:

 

The underlying strength of the British economy shone through in the December jobs figures. The biggest expansion in temporary recruitment since October 2018 shows how important the flexible jobs market is to that performance. Growing permanent placements and starting pay also emphasised the resilience of our economy”.

So whilst the latest employment statistics from the ONS may appear pretty gloomy, we can take encouragement from the most recent REC research and words of James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG who said:

 

“… with the UK leading the way on the vaccine roll out and continued government financial support, there is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel for both business and jobseekers.”

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