Report on UK Jobs – May 2020

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 May are:

Permanent placements continue to fall sharply

May survey data indicated that hiring activity remained weak across the UK, as permanent placements and temp billings both fell at the second-sharpest rates on record. Recruiters frequently mentioned that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had led clients to cancel or postpone recruitment plans until the outlook improved.

Candidate supply rises at fastest pace since mid-2009

Recruitment consultancies signalled the quickest expansion in overall candidate availability since July 2009 during May. The upturn was driven by steeper increases in the availability of both permanent and short-term staff. Panellists often linked higher candidate numbers to redundancies and staff being placed on furlough due to COVID-19.

Starting salaries drop at steeper rate…

Permanent starter salaries fell for the second month running in May, and at the quickest rate since February 2009. Temp pay meanwhile declined at the fastest rate for 11 years. Recruiters often mentioned that weak demand for staff and budget cuts at clients had driven down pay in May.

… as demand for staff declines further

Overall vacancies fell at a substantial pace in May, despite the rate of reduction easing from April’s survey record. Marked drops in demand continued to be signalled for both permanent and temporary workers, with the former noting the steeper rate of contraction.

Commenting on the latest survey results, James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said, “Lingering uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the outlook may improve, continues to take its toll on the UK jobs market. Hiring plans which were put on hold in March remain on ice, with many businesses focusing on maintaining their current staff rather than expansion or replacement. The number of people looking for work has risen at the quickest rate since July 2009 making it a highly competitive market. With a potential July stimulus package from the Government set to include a focus on retraining and skills, adaptability will be the key to success for jobseekers in 2020.”

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said, “Given the impact of the lockdown in early May, it’s no surprise that these figures look bleak. But in the two weeks since this data was collected, lockdown rules have been eased and the feedback we get from recruiters every day suggests that the slight improvements that we can see in the placements and vacancies data have continued. I’m also hearing from business leaders all over the country that things are starting to look up. There is a long way to go, but it’s time to talk about how we recover from this crisis. Collaboration between government, businesses and recruiters will be vital as we try to get the economy up and running again. The UK’s staffing and recruitment companies are experts at helping people find work, and we are ready to support jobseekers in the months ahead.”