Report on UK Jobs – February 2021

Report on UK Jobs

The Report on UK Jobs is unique in providing the most comprehensive guide to the UK jobs market, drawing on original survey data provided by recruitment consultancies and employers to provide the first indication each month of labour market trends.

The main findings for February are:

Permanent placements fall again, albeit at softer rate

The ongoing national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) led to a second successive monthly drop in permanent staff appointments in February, though the pace of decline weakened since January. At the same time, the expansion in temp billings was the softest seen in the current seven-month sequence of growth.

Demand for staff broadly stabilises in February

After falling solidly at the start of 2021, overall vacancies were broadly unchanged in February. Underlying data showed that permanent vacancies were close to stabilisation, while demand for temporary workers increased solidly.

Weakest increase in candidate numbers since the onset of the pandemic

February data revealed only a fractional rise in staff supply, with the upturn the weakest seen since the current period of expansion began last April. While permanent worker availability was little-changed on the month, temp candidate numbers increased at a softer, but still marked, pace. Recruiters mentioned that the latest lockdown and concerns over job security had dampened candidate availability.

Starting pay falls again for permanent workers

Permanent starting salaries fell again in February, though the rate of reduction was only modest. At the same time, temp wages were broadly stable following a slight drop in January. Recruiters often mentioned that pay trends were relatively muted due to sluggish market conditions.

Commenting on the latest survey results, James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said:

“Business confidence remained subdued in February, with a further drop in permanent appointments and the lingering pandemic uncertainty still evident. The UK jobs market remains on hold with hiring decisions stalled, people reluctant to seek new roles and the growth in temporary billings has also slowed. However, it’s encouraging that it’s not seeing the big drop in vacancies or hiring that were seen in the first national lockdown. There’s a long way to go to rebuild confidence in the UK jobs market. But with the Covid roadmap to recovery in place and the Chancellor’s Budget announcement to further support businesses and individuals, there is reason for optimism for the UK’s future workforce.”

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“Given the national lockdown that has been in place for the past two months, the labour market has coped remarkably well. Permanent placements have only fallen modestly, while vacancies and candidate availability have stabilised. Meanwhile, businesses have continued to use temporary work to help them through this tough period. We are well-positioned for a recovery as restrictions are lifted – but both businesses and workers will need help to do so. With that in mind, there was some good news in this week’s Budget. It was sensible to extend support measures like the furlough scheme and business tax deferrals while health restrictions are still in place, and expand support for the self- employed. But more could have been done to tackle the big economic transitions we face, encouraging growth and reducing unemployment. For example, cutting employers’ National Insurance to encourage job retention and creation, replacing the failed apprenticeship levy with a flexible levy that meets the economy’s needs, and investing in job finding services with recruiters at their heart.”


Posted in: