Category: Recruitment Agencies

Adecco Group announced today its Q2 financial results where an increase in revenue of 29 percent was recorded. Revenue growth for the Group was strongest in higher-value activities with permanent placements up by 88 percent; and training, upskilling and reskilling up 78 percent. The Group’s gross profit increased by 39 percent organically, with substantial growth recorded in all Global Business Units which, considering the uncertainty of the market so far this year, is notable. Operating profits of €237m, excluding one-offs, were recorded with gross margin performance supported by strong productivity across the business.

Alain Dehaze, Adecco Group CEO, commented: “The second quarter performance was strong with positive momentum throughout, particularly in Permanent Placement. Revenues are now 5 percent below pre-crisis levels on an underlying basis, while the Group’s gross profit is now broadly in line with pre-crisis levels. This is well aligned to the Group’s drive to deliver sustainable, profitable growth through organic and inorganic actions. Our businesses continued to execute well, with margin improvement supported by mix, pricing and strong productivity. At the same time, the Group has begun to extend its investment in sales to drive growth.”

“We have seen pockets of talent scarcity and wage inflation in our end-markets, particularly in technology solutions, and the pace of recovery in Permanent Placement is unprecedented. We are cautiously optimistic that all our service lines, including Flexible Placement, have scope to recover further in the quarters ahead. We are confident that with the implementation of our Future@Work strategy, including the digital transformation of our business, we will be optimally positioned to take market share,” he added.

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REED chairman urges 3 million furloughed employees to leave zombie firms

The latest ONS Labour Market estimates from February to April 2021 continue to show signs of recovery, with a quarterly increase in the employment rate of 0.2% to 75.2% and a quarterly decrease in the unemployment rate of 0.3% to 4.7%.

The number of payrolled employees has increased for the sixth consecutive month, up by 197,000 in May 2021 to 28.5 million – although this is 553,000 below pre-pandemic levels. The number of job vacancies in March to May 2021 was 758,000, only 27,000 below January to March 2020.

While annual growth in average employee pay has continued to increase, the ONS attributes this to a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs. Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay (excluding bonuses) among employees was 5.6% for the three months February to April 2021.

Govt support still needed

Commenting on these latest figures, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said: “This latest official data confirms the trends that surveys of businesses and recruiters have been telling us. The jobs market enjoyed a strong bounceback during the initial phases of unlocking.

“But with labour shortages across the economy, any delays in hiring could have serious consequences for the recovery. Now that there is a delay to the final stage of unlocking, employers need digital Right to Work checks to remain in place to help them place staff quickly and in line with public health guidance. Government must also extend the targeted support measures that have been in place alongside the restrictions.”

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said: “While the ONS data shows that we’re not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, the consistent increases are in line with our own data which showed that permanent vacancies in May were up 116% compared with the same time last year (up from 90% in April).

“However, when we look at who has been most effected by the decline in jobs during the pandemic, the fact that under 25-year-olds have been hit particularly hard is of concern for future skills development. Our members are already noticing a dearth of resources in highly skilled sectors particularly across STEM related roles. With employers already beginning to feel the impact of post-Brexit skill losses, committing to the training and development of talent both young and old will be crucial in helping the UK build back better.”

Jobs boom

Offering a perspective from the UK’s largest recruitment firm, James Reed, Chairman of REED, said: “The latest ONS employment figures do not begin to describe the ‘jobs boom’ that is now underway in the UK. This dramatic change has happened very quickly and will not be apparent from historic data. The talk now will be all about labour shortages, skills shortages and wage increases.

“The key questions are, how fast will the economy grow? And to what extent will progress be limited by labour market constraints? “Last month was’s best month for job postings since February 2008 – before the last financial crash. Over 275,000 jobs went onto in May, a 26% month-on-month increase and a 237% year-on-year increase.

“However, the recovery could be curtailed if staff shortages are not addressed urgently. The huge number of workers still on furlough – up to three million by the end of April – is at odds with a labour market which is now growing rapidly and facing a candidate deficit in certain sectors. As a result, we could see wage inflation, making it an ideal time for furloughed workers to depart zombie jobs and seek new opportunities elsewhere.”

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There is growing evidence of a serious mismatch between supply and demand in the UK’s jobs market, with vacancies rising at record rates but the candidate pool drying up.

Last week job listing site Reed reported that more than 275,000 new jobs were added to its site in May, the highest monthly total since just before the financial crisis hit in February 2008.

And this week, the ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey reported the biggest boost to the jobs outlook for 20 years as companies recruited at pace to keep up with the reopening of the economy.

Its survey, which collected responses from 1,764 UK employers, recorded a 13-point quarter-on-quarter increase in hiring intentions for the third quarter, with the UK’s growth higher than any European country except for Ireland.

Chris Gray, Director at ManpowerGroup UK, said: “After the weakest 12 months for the UK’s jobs outlook in 30 years, employers are raring to get back to normal and capture the wave of pent-up consumer demand. The employment outlook has seen the sharpest quarter-on-quarter increase since 2002 and the largest year-on-year record to date.

“Much of this is likely to be companies making up for hiring freezes and redundancies undertaken over the past 12 months. The dramatic growth in hiring intentions among small (15%) and mid-sized (19%) businesses – so often the real engines of economic growth – is a shot in the arm for UK plc.”

Taking a long-term view

Similarly, the latest KPMG/REC UK Report on Jobs, compiled by IHS Markit, revealed that demand for workers hit a 23-year high in May.

Interestingly, its survey of 400 recruitment and employment consultancies suggested that businesses were now feeling confident enough to commit to permanent employees, after a period in which many companies opted for temporary hires due to uncertainty over the pandemic.

It reported that in May permanent placements saw the sharpest rise in more than 23-and-a-half years of data collection.

Claire Warnes, Partner and Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK, said: “With demand for workers in May increasing at the fastest rate in 23 years, the jobs market seems to be firing on all cylinders, and we need this momentum to continue for our economy and businesses to fully bounce back.”

Workers in short supply

However, while this increase in confidence is certainly being celebrated, there are also warnings of a shortage of workers.

Warnes added: “The deterioration in staff supply intensified this month, with overall candidate availability declining at the quickest rate since May 2017. This is a worrying trend and the message is clear: we need businesses and recruiters working alongside government to urgently address the skills gap by supporting candidates and employees to upskill and reskill to move into new roles. This will be crucial to our recovery from the pandemic and the levelling up of opportunities across the UK.”

ManpowerGroup’s Gray echoed this sentiment and said that 77% of UK employers were currently struggling to meet skills shortages, with the number having more than doubled from the 35% seen in 2019.

He added: “Sectors like hospitality have never experienced anything like this sudden snapback in hiring. The war for talent is hotting up. Employers are desperate to hire experienced chefs, waiting staff, retail workers and more, not least many due to post-Brexit skills shortages in many of these roles.”

This aligned with data from job boards network Broadbean Technology, which reported that the hospitality sector reported the highest vacancy numbers in May since early 2020, with postings up 34% on April. Retail vacancies soared by 50% in the first three weeks of the month alone.

However, Broadbean had already warned of an 82% decrease in application numbers in April and Managing Director Alex Fourlis said things were only getting worse on that front.

Wage rises inevitable?

“The impact of both Brexit and the pandemic on staff availability is continuing to play out as this demand rises. While we expect this jobs growth to continue, we could soon see the gap in supply and demand drive wages up,” he said.

Already, ManpowerGroup has reported that skills shortages in logistics have led to significant wage rises for drivers, with increases of as much as 20% having already been handed out and “tens of thousands” more vacancies to fill in the sector.

However, Kate Shoesmith, Deputy CEO of the REC, pointed out that employers struggling to find staff needed to consider more than just pay. “Employers must think about how they can attract the staff they need, for example by looking at the wage and benefits package on offer – there is particular demand for more flexible and hybrid work.”

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By David McCormack, CEO, HIVE360

Looking after the welfare of the business and its workers is not only beneficial for performance and profitability, it is a legal requirement in a growing number of sectors like the fresh produce, food packing and processing industries that are governed by employment standards regulated by the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority. Recruitment agency outsourced PAYE payroll, wellbeing and benefits provider, HIVE360, is a GLAA license holder.

The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), is a Non-Departmental Public Body of the UK Government, and a national enforcement agency whose role is to protect workers from labour exploitation.

The GLAA began in April 2006 after the horrific deaths of Chinese cockleshell pickers in Morecambe Bay. Since then, it has regulated businesses providing workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry, to ensure they meet the exacting employment standards required by law. It investigates reports of unlicensed trading, worker exploitation, illegal labour provision, and offences under the National Minimum Wage and Employment Agencies Acts.

Despite the incredible work of the GLAA, its latest figures are concerning – the number of potential victims of exploitation more than doubled last year to 15,186.

This is far from okay. We believe everyone deserves the best work:life experience, to feel safe at work, and to never be exploited. These values have been the foundation for building HIVE360, and our GLAA licence is central to how we work with and support our clients, strategic partners, and labour providers, and to our own workplace policies. Currently, HIVE360 is one of around 1000 active GLAA licence holders, and we are all subject to regular compliance inspections on health and safety, accommodation, pay, transport and training standards. Non-compliance will result in the GLAA revoking the licence.


Many of the UK’s leading temporary worker recruitment agencies, operating extensively in the GLAA sector, work with HIVE360 to provide vital welfare support and transparency of pay. Earlier this year, we launched a unique strategic partnership with Rocket Software, which provides temporary workers software to around 300 temporary worker recruiters, and payroll and accounts software solutions to 60,000 key workers.

At the time, the company’s MD Danny Steel was clear about the significance of HIVE360’s GLAA license: “We have been looking for a strategic partner in the employee benefits space and found HIVE360 innovative, collaborative, progressive and creative.  As a GLAA license holder with much experience in this vital sector, we felt HIVE360 a really good fit.”

An embedded employee/candidate engagement strategy that looks after payroll and people continues to take an important part in candidate retention and attraction rates.

On-the-go engagement in hand

As well as being an expert in recruitment agency PAYE outsourced payroll, HIVE360 goes further to add value to candidates’ experience, with our unique customisable engagement app Engage.

Provided as a standard element of our outsourced payroll solution, Engage gives employees and temporary workers access to a range of health and wellbeing benefits and services:  24/7, confidential access to mental health support, counsellors and GPs, a personal doctor, support helpline and care support, gym memberships, high-street, lifestyle, dining and insurance discounts, a training platform, along with a secure digital payslips portal and a real-time workplace pension dashboard to support employees’ financial wellbeing.  To find out more, visit

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The Government has missed an opportunity to do away with the “Wild West” of the umbrella market by choosing not to move forward with amendments to the Finance Bill, according to some in the contracting industry.

The amendments, tabled by David Davis MP and supported by Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP and Andrew Rosindell MP, were described as having the potential to ‘curb or kill’ the umbrella industry.

Essentially, the two options proposed would have either shut down the umbrella industry, or made agencies liable for unpaid tax if they worked with non-compliant umbrella companies.

However, the amendments were not selected for a vote in parliament last night, despite impassioned speeches by Davis and Duncan-Smith in the House of Commons.

“The umbrella companies and their unacceptable practices have now become very clear,” Duncan-Smith told the house. “Contractors are being forced into schemes, being forced by recruitment agencies to use these umbrella companies that they do not wish to use and may be concerned about.”

He said workers were often misled by umbrella companies, and referenced both the recent BBC File on 4 expose on mini umbrella companies and also the Loan Charge issue.

“The people who will get hurt by all of this in the end when the Treasury finally decides to do something about it will be the people that were the victims of this, not those who set these schemes up,” he said.

‘Missed opportunity’

Dave Chaplin, CEO of ContractorCalculator, who had been pressing for the changes and who also gave evidence to the Loan Charge All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry, said he was disappointed with the result.

“After considerable effort to attempt to shape reasonable amendments to the Finance Bill, it is disappointing that they were not selected to be voted on last night. Clearly, the Conservative majority would have been insurmountable and 40 rebels would have been required.

“The Treasury missed an opportunity to tame the ‘Wild West’ of the unregulated umbrella market and collect their £1 billion prize.

“The continued lack of regulation and impotence by the Government on this issue will only seek to fuel the non-compliance further.”

Crawford Temple, CEO of Professional Passport, expressed a similar view: “It is disappointing that after much considered and well-presented arguments by David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith last night the Government chose to dismiss the issues sought to be addressed.

“[Treasury Minister] Jesse Norman believes that adding enforcement to the remit of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI) will address the issues of non-compliance in the umbrella sector. I would like to remind the Government that EASI is already struggling with its existing commitments of regulation so I fail to agree that tasking an already over-stretched body with the job of regulating umbrellas will change anything and that the Government’s solution will merely serve to incentivise and fuel more non-compliance across the market.”

Stamping out malpractice

While umbrella organisations had understandably been opposed to the calls from some politicians to scrap umbrella companies entirely, legitimate providers have backed calls for regulation of the industry.

The report that resulted from the Loan Charge inquiry exposed significant malpractice in the umbrella industry, including companies providing kickbacks to

agencies for recommending them to workers.

This had come at the expense of workers, whose pay and/or benefits were often skimmed, and also the Treasury, which lost out on tax revenue.

“The problem is the worse the level of malpractice in this process, the greater the rewards and kickbacks for the agencies, reducing of course the revenue for the Treasury,” Duncan Smith said in Parliament.

Malpractice also makes it harder for legitimate and compliant umbrella companies to compete, said Chaplin.

“There are umbrella companies that run a vanilla compliant operation, with no reward schemes for agencies, and which treat workers fairly with reasonable charges, but they find it harder to access the market, because they lack the financial firepower to purchase space on an agency’s Preferred Suppliers List – for which six-figure sums can be exchanged,” he said.

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The UK looks set to avoid the mass unemployment predicted at the outset of the pandemic if the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures are anything to go by.

While employment had generally been falling and unemployment rising since the onset of the crisis, the situation was reversed in the first quarter of this year, with the ONS describing the jobs market as showing “some early signs of recovery”.

The employment rate was up on the previous quarter, rising to 75.2%, while the unemployment rate fell over the same period to 4.8%.

HMRC figures were also indicative of a recovery under way, with the number of payrolled employees rising by 97,000 in April, marking the fifth consecutive monthly rise. However, it’s worth noting that this total is still 772,000 lower than the pre-Covid-19 level.

In response to the figures, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said: “Today’s figures show the labour market remained very resilient during the latest lockdown, and even show the beginnings of the recovery in hiring that business surveys are suggesting.

“The fact that the number of payrolled employees increased during January-March alongside the headline employment rate is also a positive sign. With the announcement of lockdown easing in February and restrictions starting to lift in March, business confidence has grown, and we can see that in the growing number of job vacancies – especially in sectors like hospitality.”

Employer optimism at eight-year high

This positive sentiment was backed up by the CIPD/Adecco Labour Market Outlook for spring 2021.

This survey of 1,000 employers found that optimism about hiring among employers had risen to the highest level for eight years.

The report also noted that employers across all three major sectors – private, voluntary and public – were all planning to add more jobs than they cut, and that the buoyancy even extended to hard-hit sectors such as hospitality and retail.

Only 12% of employers were planning redundancies in the next three months, taking this measure below the pre-pandemic level of 16% for the first time since the crisis began.

There was also good news for employees on pay, with basic pay expectations set to increase from 1% to 2% in the next 12 months.

However, Gerwyn Davies, Senior Labour Market Adviser at the CIPD, said employers needed to consider more than just pay when hiring.

“More jobs and improved pay prospects should give us all reason to cheer, but a solid jobs recovery must be focused on better jobs, not just more jobs,” he said. “To offset the emerging threat of recruitment difficulties, employers should be reviewing not just their recruitment practices, but also the quality of work they offer – such as employment conditions, the possibility of promotion, training opportunities and the right balance of flexibility and security. There’s more to good work than raising wages.”

Recruitment difficulties ahead?

This idea that employers will need to work hard to attract workers was something Pertemps chairperson Carmen Watson also picked up on as the company released the CBI/Pertemps Labour Market Update.

“There is still a reluctance from employees to seek new roles as they remain concerned over job security. Recruitment firms will play a key role in engaging and securing key talent for organisations,” she said.

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), added that the government also had a role to play in helping the jobs market recover: “In order to continue on this positive trajectory, working practices and employment law need to be fit for the modern world. How businesses are run and how recruitment is managed is different in a remote working environment and it’s critical that the relevant authorities are providing the necessary support that organisations currently need.

“The recent delay to a return to in-person Right to Work checks is one move that APSCo has welcomed – though we are urging the Home Office to prioritise the adoption of technology to switch to digital checks.”

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Black professionals are twice as likely to be turned down when asking for a pay rise than their white counterparts, according to a new study.

The findings were included in an in-depth white paper published by Robert Walters, which surveyed more than 7,500 workers year-on-year between 2019 and 2021.

The poll found that 42% of black professionals were refused a pay increase after negotiation, compared with 21% of white professionals. For black women, the situation was even worse – 63% were turned down when asking for more pay.

Further, even when they were successful in negotiating a pay rise, black professionals were less likely to get 75-100% of what they asked for, achieving this just 21% of the time, against 35% for white employees.

Black workers were also more likely to be deterred from even asking for more money, with 37% saying they hadn’t even tried, against 23% for their white peers.

Habiba Khatoon, Director at Robert Walters, said: “This report is one of the most significant pieces of research into diversity and inclusion in the workplace in the past two years, and specifically highlights the failures that come from a lack of effective inclusion – where company structure, culture, and/or policies negatively impact underrepresented groups.

“Whilst D&I has rightly been a prime concern for leadership teams, who now understand how critical an active D&I policy is for their organisation’s success, it remains the case that almost no protected characteristic – be it gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or age – can be said to be properly represented in the workplace.”

The recruitment firm noted that the temporary hold on the government’s decision on whether or not to enforce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting was making it difficult to assess the exact state of play.

While ONS figures showed that in 2019 the gender pay gap between all minorities and white British workers had shrunk to just 2.3%, it noted that, “this simple comparison between white and ethnic minority groups does, however, mask a wide variety of experiences among different ethnic minorities”.

In fact, the Robert Walters report found that the top five ethnic groups most dissatisfied with their pay were all minorities.

Needs not being met

Pay wasn’t the only issue noted, however. Some 41% of black professionals also felt there were a lack of opportunities available to them, with 34% stating that no relevant training courses were on offer.

Three times the number of black, and two times the number of Asian professionals stated that lack of representation was holding them back, compared with their white peers. One-third of black professionals said their career expectations were not being met by their employer.

Meera Raikundalia, Co-Founder of the Black Young Professionals (BYP) Network, which contributed to the Robert Walters report, said: “The UK has an abundance of black and ethnic minority talent, however, it appears that they remain hugely under-represented in the workplace. When asked to name business leaders from an ethnic minority background, just 34% of respondents could recall even one role model, in comparison to 75% of white respondents.

“It is clear that you can’t become what you can’t see, and it is therefore key for organisations to consciously attract and showcase minority talent at the top of their organisation to show there is a clear path to success for minority candidates.”

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Staffing firms made up 10% of the 325 organisations shortlisted across four main shortlists by Best Companies – from the top 100 Small, Mid-sized, and Large businesses to the 25 Best Big Companies to Work For.

Based on an annual survey of employee feedback, the rankings were revealed at the Best Companies Live event, hosted by BBC’s Dan Walker, on Friday 20th May.

Only three staffing firms were shortlisted in the UK’s 100 Best Large Companies to Work For 2021, where organisations must employ between 200 – 1,999 full-time employees and achieve one of the 100 highest BCI scores in the category. These included: Randstad UK (38), gap personnel (56) and Pertemps Recruitment Partnership (93).

Ten made it onto the top 100 Best Mid-sized Companies to Work For 2021, which must have at least 75 full-time employees. These included:

  • LHi Group (6)
  • Premier Group Recruitment (20)
  • Trinnovo Group (27)
  • Roc Search (28)
  • La Fosse Associates (46)
  • Charlton Morris (53)
  • Cook Investment Group (62)
  • MSI Group (90)
  • Prospero Group (94)
  • MCG Group (97)

Apprentice training specialist Educ8 Group took the top spot with another training provider for young talent, MPCT, ranked 13. Human capital investment company Bluestones Investment Group (81) also made the list.

Nineteen recruiters made the UK’s 100 Best Small Companies to Work For with at least 25 full-time employees this year. These included:

  • Oscar (5)
  • Oyster Partnership (12)
  • Eton Bridge Partners (14)
  • Square One Resources (16)
  • SF Recruitment (18)
  • Gleeson Recruitment Group (21)
  • Eames Consulting Group (35)
  • Quanta Consultancy Services (36)
  • deverellsmith (38)
  • New Street Consulting Group (39)
  • Wilton & Bain (41)
  • Prime People Plc (44)
  • Searchability (45)
  • Empiric Solutions (49)
  • Boss Professional Services (51)
  • Optimus Search (54)
  • InterEx Group (56)
  • Franklin Fitch (64)
  • Leathwaite (95)

A number of talent tech and training firms also made the list. These included: AI-powered matching platform SourceBreaker (10); healthcare recruitment investor Hunter Gatherer Group (17); e-learning provider High Speed Training (19); inhouse recruitment tech provider networx (46); re-skilling and upskilling specialist LifeSkills Solutions (52); and employer brand and recruitment marketing solution Talent Works International (93).

“It’s good to see so many staffing and talent tech firms aspiring to be great employers, demonstrating excellence in employee engagement and showing that the sector practices what it preaches,” said Alex Evans, Programme Director of TALiNT Partners and its TIARA awards programme. “Best company to work for awards enable recruitment firms to differentiate themselves from their competitors to not only win new clients but attract the best candidates and consultants in an intensely competitive market.”

Finalists for the TIARA Talent Tech Star Awards were revealed last week and entries are still being accepted for the TIARA Recruitment Awards.

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Businesses rushed to hire more staff as they prepared for the easing of lockdown measures that came into play this week.

Companies across the UK posted 181,000 new job adverts in the first week of May, following a post-pandemic record of 211,000 new job listings in the final week of April.

According to the REC’s Jobs Recovery Tracker, this meant there were a total of 1.53 million active job postings in the UK in the first week of this month.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: “The jobs data continues to give us good news for the recovery. Since governments across the UK announced plans for easing lockdowns, we’ve seen a robust and rising rate of new job ads being posted.

“As restrictions ease, those numbers have continued to rise. Business leaders are feeling more confident now than at any point during the past year.”

Unsurprisingly, job listings were dominated by sectors where activity has been heavily curtailed throughout the pandemic.

Teachers and other education professionals were the profession with the highest weekly increase in demand during the first week of May, with listings up 22.1%.

Hospitality boom

There was also strong growth in jobs for hospitality and leisure workers, with bar staff ads up 17.5%, waiting staff demand up 9.9% and hotel and accommodation manager listings rising by 10.3%.

The REC data was backed up by research by job search engine Adzuna, which said that hospitality and catering jobs had risen by 188% in the seven weeks to the first week of May.

It said the sector was seeing the fastest recovery by some distance, with logistics and warehouse, retail, legal and manufacturing roles making up the rest of the top five sectors for growth in job listings.

Andrew Hunter, Co-founder of Adzuna, said the rapid hiring in recent weeks had led to “hot competition” for staff, particularly as many hospitality and retail workers had left the industry over the past year.

He added: “There are also far fewer foreign workers seeking employment in the UK, with overseas interest in UK jobs more than halving from before the pandemic, hitting these industries hard. UK employers can no longer rely on overseas workers to plug employment gaps.”

The shortage of candidates in some of the sectors currently seeking staff was also noted by Matthew Mee, Director of Workforce Intelligence at Emsi, which works with the REC to produce the Jobs Recovery Tracker.

“With the workforce shrinking significantly over the last 12 months (a combination of Covid, furlough and Brexit), we’re hearing strong anecdotes from our recruitment clients of an increasingly tight labour market in a number of sectors – particularly those that aren’t currently listed on the Skilled Worker Occupation Shortage list.”

Recruiters ‘sought after’ partners

While this supply/demand imbalance may be bad news for companies in some sectors, it appears to be good news for the recruitment sector as firms look for help sourcing staff.

The latest Recruitment Trends Snapshot report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) reported “massive spikes” in year-on-year vacancies and placements in the professional recruitment sector.

It found that while permanent vacancies were down slightly in April when compared with the previous month, they were up 90% year on year, while contract roles rose by 83%. Permanent placements were up 82% on the same basis, while contract roles rose by 68%.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, said: “This data points very clearly to the ongoing value of the recruitment sector to the economy as organisations look for help to find the right skill sets.

“While the last year has been very tough on business and there has undoubtedly been redundancies, the annual increases in vacancies show that while there may be more candidates on the market, professional sectors still have niche skill shortages, and our profession will continue to be a sought after expert partner to help source those skills.”

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In what should prove good news for both recruiters and job seekers, the latest data suggests the recovery in the UK jobs market is running far ahead of the country’s roadmap back to normality.

Despite the country being in lockdown, the first quarter of this year saw vacancies increase 20% on the final three months of last year, according to job boards network Broadbean Technology.

Even more encouragingly, the rise in job postings was not matched by applicant numbers, with these rising just 4% over the same period. The number of applicants per vacancy was down a dramatic 34% on the same period last year.

All of this points to the possibility of a return to a war for talent in the UK recruitment market, said Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at Broadbean Technology.

“It is surprising that in the first three months of the year, employers actually received less applicants per job compared to the same period last year. And while we can’t say whether the war for talent we are seeing in some sectors has returned for good, there are clear signs that the struggles employers had faced sourcing hard-to-find skill sets in areas that have notoriously faced a dearth of talent – including tech and life sciences – are starting to surface once again.

“It will be interesting to note how his plays out over the coming weeks and months, but one thing is for sure: we are starting to see parallels to the pre-pandemic employment landscape.”

Caution remains

However, the latest JobsOutlook data from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) suggested that employers may be taking a cautious approach as the country starts to reopen for business.

While its first quarter survey of 600 employers showed a clear rise in the level of confidence in the UK economy during the period, it seems companies do not yet feel certain about committing long term to workers.

Employers’ plans to hire permanent staff in the short term remained unchanged in the survey, but the news was much more positive when it came to temporary staff.

The desire for temporary agency workers jumped significantly, with hiring intentions for temporary workers in both the short and medium term rising to the highest level since mid-2018.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: “For the past few months, firms have been getting more positive about their prospects, but have been more cagey about the broader economy. This data shows that confidence is spreading more widely now – and it is feeding through to hiring in a much more substantial way.

“It’s no surprise that this report shows the value of agency work – it is a huge benefit to the UK, getting people into work quickly and helping businesses hire in uncertain times.”

Young faring betting than old

It may be younger people who now stand to benefit most from the fledgling confidence in hiring. While the fact that young people have been disproportionally affected by job losses has been much reported over the past year, new data from the Institute of Student Employers suggests things may be turning around for those at the beginning of their career.

Most of the UK’s top graduate employers are hiring at least as many graduates as last year, with 36% increasing their intake.

While 16% have cut graduate jobs compared to last year, this is a big improvement on last year, when 44% reduced numbers during the height of the pandemic.

Employers also said they were hiring more school leavers. Almost a third (31%) are increasing their recruitment levels from last year and 57% are hiring the same number.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive at the ISE, said: “Employers are optimistic that we’re reaching the end of the pandemic, but not that the economic crisis is over. However, early indicators show that the market is on the upturn and there will be more employment opportunities for young people this year.”

Unfortunately, at the other end of the career cycle things are not looking so rosy. A report released by the Resolution Foundation last week found that the pandemic had led to the biggest annual employment fall for workers over 50 since the 1980s.

Its research found that the decline in the employment rate for over-50s had been twice as large as for those aged 25-49, and ONS figures showed there were 109,000 more unemployed workers aged 50-64 than a year earlier.

Unemployed workers in that age group took the longest to return to work after losing their job, and also faced the biggest income drop when doing so.

Nye Cominetti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “In the face of the current crisis, unemployed older workers may have to either work for longer to make up for these negative employment effects, or retire earlier than they planned to.

“The government must ensure that older workers are not forgotten in the design and implementation of schemes created in the wake of the crisis to help people back into work.”

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