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The UK may have officially crept out of recession but concerns of a jobless recovery loom as employers expect a slow return to hiring stability.
Manpower, the recruitment and outsourcing specialist, has today published data from one of the first forward-looking labour market surveys since the recovery began. The data shows a slim return to hiring confidence forecast for Q2 2010 in the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey of 2,100 UK employers with a Seasonally Adjusted Net Employment Outlook of 1% reported.

Mark Cahill, Managing Director at Manpower UK, explains: The UKs emergence from recession is certainly positive news, but there is still unprecedented confusion in the labour market with rising levels of people claiming benefits and static unemployment levels, too. Our survey provides some clarity to the situation though, revealing the highs and lows of the employment landscape in what will likely be another challenging year for employers and job seekers.

Looking at the industry sectors emerging from the recession in best shape is Utilities at 6%, whose employers are the most positive of the nine industry sectors surveyed, followed by those in Finance & Business Services at 5%, and the Public and Manufacturing sectors both of which are at 1%. At the other end of the scale, Transport & Telecommunications is the hardest hit sector at -7%, and employers in the Construction sector, an industry particularly hard hit during 2009, also report downbeat hiring confidence for the next three months at -2%.

While the Public sector has recently come under high media scrutiny, employers there are reporting positive hiring intentions for the quarter ahead, says Cahill. This sector remains the UKs largest employer, and therefore the importance of having the best workplace solutions is critical. Job cuts may be the fastest route to short-term cost-cutting but implementing innovative workforce transformations such as those seen in the private sector, will allow for recurring savings and flexibility in the long-term. The ongoing health and efficiency of the Public sector needs to be re-engineered by changing the way that front line services are delivered to meet increasing consumer demand.

Within the Public sector, improving efficiencies is a high priority. Less rigid employment structures, combining resources with other partners and services, moving labour intensive processes online, and enabling internal and external self-services, are just some of the alternative solutions already being adopted by the Public sector as we move into the next quarter.

Honouring the workforces that have carried businesses through the previous turbulent 12 months should be a priority for employers. In reality, it will be some time before workplaces return to pre-recession conditions, if ever, but employers still need to cultivate talent and employees must continue to up-skill to ensure they are well equipped in the upturn. For those seeking work, being open to opportunities that can provide invaluable skills and on-the-job experience is attractive to many employers who are looking for a sure-fire way to safeguard the future of their business.

Cahill concludes: Labour markets the world over will take time to find their feet in 2010 and in the UK, we may see some further increases in unemployment levels although we still believe we will not hit 3 million unemployed as originally predicted. UK plc has learnt hard lessons from previous recessions, but this time around were seeing different trends emerge for instance, employers are postponing hiring commitments until sustainable demand re-emerges, rather than engaging in anticipatory hiring. They are also implementing well-managed, complementary, flexible workforces, which is a prudent choice as they adjust to post-recession conditions.
Looking at the 12 UK regions surveyed, there is an inconsistent picture of prospective labour market activity for the next three months. Employers in East Anglia report the most positive Outlook at 12%, London is flat at 0%, while employers in the automotive manufacturing hub, the West Midlands, are the least positive at -9%. However, significant improvements since last quarter are reported by employers in the North West, South East, Yorkshire & Humberside and Wales.


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