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British employers plan to slash record jobless rate: new research

By Dawn Gibson

One in two British employers say they are planning to recruit this quarter, instilling hope that the UK’s record-high unemployment rate may start to go down.

The latest ONS unemployment data, released yesterday, revealed the jobless rate rose to 5.1% in the three months to December, the highest level in almost five years. The redundancy rate was estimated at 12.3 people per thousand employees.

The number of job vacancies from November 2020 to January 2021 was 26% lower than a year ago. This is an improvement on the position in summer 2020 when vacancies were down by nearly 60% year-on-year, but the rate of improvement has slowed in the past few months.

However, the winter CIPD/Adecco Labour Market Outlook report signals a significant renewal of employer confidence which could be expected to further improve as lockdown restrictions ease. More than half (56%) of employers responding to the quarterly survey are planning to recruit in Q1 2021, up three percentage points from the autumn and seven percentage points from the summer.

Employment confidence is highest in healthcare, ICT and business services, and most subdued in hospitality, finance and insurance, and administration and support service activities.

Redundancy intentions fall

The CIPD report also reveals that redundancy intentions have fallen sharply. A fifth of organisations expect to make some redundancies during the quarter, down ten percentage points from the autumn quarter.

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 employers, it is the first of these quarterly reports to show positive employment prospects since the onset of the pandemic.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said the official unemployment figures came as no surprise, but there were many positive signs for the months ahead. “The number of payrolled employees and the total hours worked continue to increase, as does the number of vacancies in the labour market,” he said. “Our own data tells us that employers want to hire new staff in the coming months – with the plan for easing lockdown now in place and firms able to see the path ahead, we should see some of that pent-up demand start to be unleashed as the economy gradually opens.”

Tech jobs boom

Harvey Nash Group Chief Executive Bev White pointed out that the UK tech sector had created over 100,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic. “Although thousands of hospitality, leisure, and retail jobs have been completely wiped out, there are sectors that have performed strongly, with [the latest] ONS figures highlighting that over half a million jobs have been created since the start of the pandemic by the public sector, and the professional, scientific and technology sectors,” she said.
“In particular the figures underline the strong health of tech amidst booming demand for digital and cloud-based solutions and services. We don’t see any sign of this changing and expect many thousands more jobs to be created in tech through the rest of this year and beyond.”

Call to extend furlough

REED Chairman James Reed said, despite the third national lockdown, the labour market has shown some encouraging signs of recovery since December, which were expected to accelerate as restrictions are eased.

However, he urged the government to contemplate extending the furlough scheme as a “lifeline for businesses”. “An extension should be considered for those who will still need support beyond April while a phased easing of lockdown measures takes place across different sectors,” he said.

“More targeted support is also needed for those whose livelihoods have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – including women, workers from BAME backgrounds and the youngest and oldest among the UK workforce.”

Paul Naha-Biswas, CEO and Founder at recruitment tech platform Sixley, agreed that women and people from BAME communities had suffered the brunt of job cuts – but he also thought it was time to look beyond statistics.

“These aren’t just figures – every number is a person who’s lost their job in the last year and had their livelihood thrown into chaos by becoming unemployed in the midst of a pandemic,” he said. “As restrictions are rolled back, it is vital that friends and family of those looking for work search their networks, identify job opportunities, and recommend their loved ones for a role. A recommendation can make all the difference.”

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