Optimism around the impact of the coronavirus vaccine roll-out led to an increase in both permanent and temporary job placements last month.
According to the latest UK Report on Jobs from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and KPMG, temporary billings increased at their fastest pace since October 2018, while permanent appointments rose, albeit marginally, for the first time since September 2020.
Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said that an “underlying strength” in the British economy was evident 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,” he said. “Growing permanent placements and starting pay also emphasised the resilience of our economy.
“The important thing now is to maintain as much of that momentum as possible through the new lockdown. With business cashflows under renewed pressure, helping employers protect and create jobs is essential. We need a long-term plan to support businesses across the supply chain – not just those required to close.”
Demand for staff also increased last month, though temporary vacancies rose at a much steeper rate than that seen for permanent workers. Permanent and temporary pay levels rose for the first time since March, though only mildly.
The monthly report, compiled by IHS Markit from data provided by a panel of around 400 UK recruitment consultancies, also showed that the availability of workers increased sharply. Recruiters frequently mentioned that staff supply rose due to redundancies and worries over current job security.
James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG, said: “The emergence of a vaccine did bring more confidence to the jobs market in December with a small increase in permanent appointments. Temporary billings were also sharply up across the UK although London was a notable exception.
“However, we will have to see what January brings with a new national lockdown sure to fuel economic uncertainty, alongside preparing and adapting to the new relationship with the EU. But 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.”
With business cashflows under renewed pressure, helping employers protect and create jobs is essential. We need a long-term plan to support businesses across the supply chain – not just those required to close” – Neil Carberry, REC
Permanent placements rose in the South, the Midlands and the North, but London recorded a further decline. London was the only region to see a fall, and has not record an increase for 12 months.
Half of the 10 job categories monitored saw greater demand for permanent staff at the end of 2020. IT/computing and nursing/medical/care saw the steepest rates of expansion, while hotel/catering meanwhile saw the sharpest drop in vacancies.
Carberry said that the government should offer wider-spread reductions on business rates, support on VAT repayments and support for self-employed business owners previously cut out of schemes. “We need big ticket items now, like a reduction in the cost of furlough and employers’ national insurance to help firms retain and hire staff in the coming months, alongside delivery of the vaccine.
“Regions have been recovering at different speeds and London continues to lag behind. London is home to some of the most deprived boroughs in the country, so this is particularly worrying. It underlines the urgency of action needed to help businesses retain workers and get the vaccine delivered.”
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