REC - Jobs Outlook - September 2020

Employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff in the next three months improved during the summer months. According to the REC’s latest JobsOutlook, short-term demand rose to a net level of +11 in June-August.

The survey’s measures of business confidence – while still in negative territory – have also improved. Confidence in making hiring and investment decisions was at net: -3 in June-August, indicating that the worsening trend of the lockdown has largely petered out. Confidence in the UK economy was at net: -44, showing the majority of employers still believe the economy’s prospects are worsening – but less dramatically than in April-June (net: -57).

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“As public health restrictions were eased over the summer, the labour market started to move. Employers remain cautious and concerned about the future path of the economy – but are much more sanguine now about their own plans. Six months into the pandemic, firms have a clearer sense of how they will navigate the crisis. This is feeding through to the beginnings of a more positive trend on permanent hiring. The number of job adverts in the market has also risen, with steady increases between June and September.

“Last week’s announcements from the Chancellor were welcomed by many businesses. They will help with hard-pressed cash-flows and keeping more people in work. But we will also need a focus on new jobs and transition if we are to avoid long-term unemployment. Reducing employment costs other than wages – like employers’ National Insurance contributions – and more flexible skills funding would help. But the most important thing over the coming weeks and months will be getting the test and trace system running effectively. This is the way to keep the economy going while fighting the virus.”

Other key figures from the latest JobsOutlook include:

  • In June-August 2020, 18% of employers reported they had reduced workers’ pay/earnings in the previous 12 months. That’s up from 5% in the year to June-August 2019.
  • One in three (34%) employers reported having no surplus capacity in their workforce in June-August, up from 29% in the previous rolling quarter. In August alone, this rose to 39%. This is likely to reflect tighter staffing arrangements as employers managed costs in the pandemic.
  • Employers who hire temporary agency workers highlighted their increasing importance in helping to manage fast-changing organisational requirements (56%) and manage uncertainty (42%).
  • Almost half (45%) of employers highlighted the importance of trade association membership as a criterion when choosing a recruitment agency partner, up from 37% a year earlier.
REC - Jobs Outlook - September 2020