Permanent recruitment growth drops to a 16-month low in June

Temporary billings rise more than permanent placements

The latest KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs survey has found that permanent staff appointments and temp billings have grown at the lowest rate in 16 months in June. While recruitment activity continues to expand across the UK, temporary billings have risen more than permanent placements.

According to the report compiled by S&P Global, recruiters shared that candidate shortages were limiting hiring activity. In addition, with ever-increasing economic uncertainty, low growth was attributed to slower client decision-making. The report also found that overall demand for workers had increased at the slowest rate since March 2021.

Further findings include that the rate of decline for staff availability has been the quickest for three months. Efforts to attract and secure candidates have resulted in marked increases in starting pay; however, salary and wage inflation rates have lessened since May.

Recruitment consultancies attributed lower candidate numbers to:

  • a generally low unemployment rate;
  • fewer foreign workers;
  • robust demand for staff; and
  • hesitancy to switch roles in the increasingly uncertain economic climate.

While overall vacancies continue to increase dramatically, the latest upturn was also the lowest in 15 months. The results also showed lower demand for both permanent and temporary workers at the end of Q2; however, the quicker expansion rate was in demand for permanent workers.

Staff availability declined severely in June, with the deterioration going up to the sharpest for three months with both permanent and temporary labour supply dropping quickly.

Imbalances between the supply and demand for workers also resulted in steep increases in starting pay rates during June. However, as sharp and well above the series average as the starting salary rates are, the rates were the softest since August 2021. Furthermore, temp wage growth dropped to a 12-month low.

Regionally, softer rises in permanent placements were noted in all four monitored English regions. However, North of England saw the weakest increase overall.

London saw the sharpest increase in temp billings at the end of Q2, whereas the softest expansion was noted in the Midlands.

In terms of vacancies, the strongest increase was for permanent workers in the private sector, followed by permanent staff in the public sector. However, the former saw a notable drop in growth in June compared to May. The softest rise, although still marked, was in vacancies for temporary workers in the public sector.

When looking at the results by industry, the data signalled steep increases in permanent staff demand across all ten monitored employment categories. Hotel & Catering showed the sharpest upturn in vacancies overall, with IT & Computing and Nursing/Medical/Care following.

Higher temp vacancies were seen in nine of the ten monitored job categories at the end of the Q2, with Hotel & Catering at the top of the rankings. Retail was the only sector to show a drop in demand, even though the rate of contraction was modest.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, commented: “The labour market is still strong, with demand for new staff high. That said, today’s data show that we will likely be past the peak of the post-pandemic hiring spree. That pace of growth was always going to be temporary – the big question now is the effect that inflation has on pay and consumer demand over the course of the rest of the year. Whether we will see the market settle at close to normal levels, or see a slowdown, is unpredictable at this point.

“Part of the reason for unpredictability in the market is a slower economy accompanied by severe labour and skills shortages. These are already proving a constraint on growth in many firms. The government should be thinking about how to ensure all its departments enable greater labour market participation and encourage business investment funds to help address this.

“It is important to note that plenty of hiring is happening in this tight market – there are candidates out there for firms who get it right. Skilled recruitment professionals are at the heart of this, making a difference to opportunity and growth for companies and workers.”

Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK, said: “The apparent buoyancy of the jobs market overall continues to mask some increasingly concerning trends. Firstly, the fluctuations in demand for permanent and temporary workers in some sectors may be showing a sustained downward trend, as it becomes clear that current economic pressures are impacting employers’ confidence to grow. Secondly, the supply of candidates in all sectors continues to decline, with the rate of contraction accelerating to the quickest for three months in June. Added to that, competition for candidates pervades all sectors with employers offering financial incentives to retain talent, so increasing wage inflation. This latest data could be signalling that the UK jobs market may be more fragile than it seems.”

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