Vacancies in April increased at the fastest rate in 23 years, research has found, with businesses gaining confidence as coronavirus restrictions start to ease.
The latest Report on Jobs by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG found that hiring activity for permanent staff rose last month at the fastest rate since the survey began in 1997, while hiring for temporary roles was also “historically strong”.
However, the report – which sent questionnaires to around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies – also found a marked drop in candidate availability, with many reluctant to change jobs over concerns around job security.
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Some of the experts surveyed also attributed the fall in candidate availability to Brexit and the changes to private sector IR35 rules.
As a result, salary inflation hit a 14-month high, while the growth in temp pay also rose to its highest rate for over a year.
Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said the jobs market was improving at “one of the fastest rates ever seen”. “We are bouncing back from a record low – and many people are still struggling – but the data shows that job creation is firing up again,” he said.
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Carberry added that the figures suggested the long-term challenge was less likely to be high unemployment and more likely to be around attracting and training enough staff.
“Companies need to be thinking about their workforce planning and employee offer, which professional recruitment firms are best placed to support them with,” he said, adding that the government also needed to “urgently tackle shortfalls in the skills system”.
This was echoed by Claire Warnes, head of education, skills and productivity at KPMG UK, who warned that businesses would not be able to fill their vacancies unless they committed to reskilling and upskilling furloughed staff.
“It’s concerning that we’re seeing a drop in candidate supply due in part to applicants needing support to adapt their skills to move from displaced sectors to those where there is more demand, such as health and care, and because the furlough scheme has reduced the pool of workers,” she said.
“Businesses have a fundamental role to play in bridging the increased skills gap that’s emerged from the pandemic.”