More Jobs on Offer – But Permanent Staff ‘Staying Put’

Employer confidence with hiring is returning, according to encouraging new figures published this month.

But that optimism has not spread to those currently in employment and who, the same figures show, are preferring to sit tight and adopt a ‘wait and see’ philosophy to moving on.

Last month’s record figures for job vacancies were announced by one of the UK’s largest recruitment firms. They announced they had posted 275,000 new job vacancies in May – the biggest number of jobs on offer since February 2008. It was also a big 50,000 increase in job vacancies compared to April.

And, correspondingly, the number of people applying for jobs in May was up too, reaching two million last month, according to the survey.

Only last month, when announcing its quarterly economic update, the Bank of England (BoE) revealed better employment news too. Governor Andrew Bailey said he now expected only a slight rise in unemployment – to a peak of 5.4% in the third quarter of 2021. This is at the time when chancellor Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme is finally due to come to an end.


Signs of a job’s recovery in last quarter

The recruitment company survey aligns with figures from the government’s own Office for National Statistics (ONS) report. Covering the month of April, the statistics show there were more employees on the national payroll than the previous month. This is, of course, to be expected with increasing numbers of workers coming off furlough. The figure for payroll employees has in fact increased for the fifth month in a row (even if it is 772,000 lower than pre-pandemic levels).

More encouragingly still, the latest estimates for January to March this year show real signs of recovery in the jobs market post-pandemic, with a quarterly increase in the employment rate, compared to the previous (Oct to Dec).

Last month, for instance, the UKs employment rate was around 75.2%. That figure is 1.4 percentage points lower than the pre-pandemic figure. But it is 0.2% higher than the previous quarter.


Employers keen to get ‘back to business’

The big rise in the number of jobs being advertised shows a keenness by employers to get back to business now that the government has published its ‘roadmap to recovery’ and lockdown is being gradually lifted. The successful vaccination programme has doubled that confidence.

In fact, a survey by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) showed the first increase in permanent staff appointments since December 2020. Many recruiters were also seeing month-on-month growth.

REC chief executive Neil Carberry @RECNeil said: “Even during lockdown, our labour market was bouncing back.” He insisted that the recent upturn in the figures was “a sign that business confidence is starting to flow back”.


Permanent employees ‘staying put’

But that optimism isn’t being transferred to permanent employees. Many say they aren’t looking for new roles now and in the foreseeable future, due to job fears over insecurity and keeping the status quo.


Recruitment market favours applicants

Will increased vacancies lead to salary rises? It’s something quite a few analysts are predicting. And, certainly, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Look what happened with the property market, where a shortage of property for sale meant sellers were able to increase their asking price.

So, now in sectors such as Hospitality and Retail employers are having to make roles more attractive to potential candidates. Retail has started to pick up since non-essential shops reopened. However, in terms of shop floor roles, there were still fewer posts per company than for delivery drivers and those involved in loading or stocking goods. In other words, it seems employers expect online sales to continue to flourish, despite shop re-openings.

Working from home still on the agenda?

Perhaps not in hospitality for obvious practical reasons, but definitely for office-based employment, many candidates will now be looking for flexibility around working from home opportunities. And this is certainly reflected in the number of applicants per role where recruitment companies say they are seeing twice as many applicants for jobs when offering such ‘hybrid’ working lifestyles.

Whether working from home will still be as prevalent in a few year’s remains to be seen. But if you’re an employer keen to get the best staff out there, it should certainly be a serious consideration for now.


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