REC - Report on Jobs - Recruitment activity picks up at the end of 2019
Friday, 10 January 2020
- Permanent placements rise for first time in a year
- Vacancy growth remains near decade low
- Staff availability continues to fall sharply
At the same time, demand for staff continued to increase at a relatively sluggish pace, with vacancy growth stuck near a decade low. Lingering uncertainty related to Brexit, alongside generally tight labour market conditions, fed through to a further marked fall in candidate numbers. As a result, starting pay rose for both permanent and short-term staff, and at slightly quicker rates than in November.
The report is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies.
Renewed rise in permanent placements
December data signalled the first rise in permanent staff appointments for a year, though growth was only modest. The upturn was linked to higher business activity, the commencement of previously delayed hiring plans and the upcoming IR35 legislation changes. Concurrently, temp billings also rose modestly at the end of the year.
Vacancies continue to expand at subdued pace
Although growth of demand for staff strengthened slightly from November, the rate of expansion remained close to a decade-low and was modest overall. While permanent vacancies rose at the quickest pace for three months, growth of demand for temp workers softened since November.
Overall candidate availability falls markedly
The number of people available for new roles continued to decline sharply in December, despite the rate of deterioration softening since November. Recruiters often blamed lower candidate availability to lingering uncertainty and skill shortages. Permanent staff supply contracted at a quicker pace than that seen for short-term workers.
Pay pressures pick up slightly
Starting pay rose further for both permanent and temporary staff at the end of the year, with rates of growth picking up from November's recent lows. Though sharp overall, the increases in starting salaries and temp wages remained among the softest seen over the past three years, however.
Regional and Sector Variations
Permanent staff appointments rose in London, the Midlands and the North of England, but declined further in the South of England. Detailed regional data highlighted increases in temp billings across all four monitored areas, with the Midlands seeing by far the steepest rate of growth.
Demand for staff continued to increase across the private sector, while mixed trends were seen for public sector vacancies.
Solid rises in demand were seen for both permanent and temp staff in the private sector, though rates of growth remained historically subdued. In the public sector, vacancies rose for temp workers but fell for permanent roles.
Permanent vacancies rose in eight of the ten sectors monitored by the survey at the end of the year. The steepest increases were seen in Blue Collar and Engineering. In contrast, Retail registered a further marked fall in demand for permanent workers.