Job market ‘shows signs of life’ following election outcome

10 Jan 2020 By Siobhan Palmer

But while hiring increased, vacancies continued to grow at a decade-low rate, survey shows

The number of permanent hires made in England grew for the first time in a year at the end of 2019, according to a poll of recruitment and employment experts. 

The permanent placements index – a measure of changes in recruitment included in the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG’s Report on Jobs, was found to be 51.9 in December 2019. Any score above 50 denotes growth in the number of permanent hires reported by survey respondents. 

Recruitment for permanent positions increased across England, with London, the Midlands and the North all experiencing growth in hiring, while the South continued to experience a decline.

The report polled 400 experts at recruitment and employment consultancies at the end of December 2019, following the general election earlier in the month.

James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG UK, said the report reflected more certainty among employers. “It would appear that following the clarity of the election outcome, the jobs market finally began to show signs of life,” he said. 

However, he also noted the growth was modest, due to “coming off a historically low base” and because of lingering Brexit uncertainty. “UK business will be hoping for quick government action to get the UK back on the path to growth, including an investment in upskilling the workforce,” he said.

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REC chief executive Neil Carberry said the figures signalled a “clearer outlook for hiring”, and provided encouragement for both recruiters and employers. “With a new government in place and the path ahead looking more predictable, some businesses have decided they have waited long enough,” he said

While the report showed growth in hiring, this increase was not reflected in demand for staff, with vacancies growing only incrementally following a decade-low rate recorded in November 2019. 

A minimal increase in demand was measured for both permanent and temporary staff overall. But the public sector only saw an increase in demand for temporary workers, while permanent staff vacancies declined. 

The retail sector reported the biggest decline in permanent vacancies, followed by construction. All other industries reported increases. Retail also saw a decline in demand for temporary workers in December, while hospitality saw the largest increase in temporary vacancies.

Jon Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, described the report’s findings as “generally good news”, agreeing the positive hiring trend was down to the general election result. “Businesses crave certainty when making decisions like whether to invest or hire, and we now have a large majority in government,” he said. 

He also noted that while demand for staff was increasing at a stubbornly low rate, vacancies had been going down “from a record high” according to national statistics. 

While he said the report brought positive news for employers heading into 2020, Boys suggested this didn’t necessarily signal a trend. 

“If there's a downturn, things will change,” he said. “Economies are cyclical, and in terms of jobs this is a really good place to be.” He added that with employment at a record high, “there's only really one direction it can go in”.

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