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Jobs recovery gathers pace, but caution remains

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.”


Photo courtesy of Canva.com

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