UK Recruitment Market

We have been getting questions about what is really going on in the UK Labour Market recently. The general economic news for the UK is gloom and doom but our employers are saying it is still not easy to find good, qualified staff. We have put together some fact and figures (thanks Tim) to try and make sense of what is going on.
We are used to seeing the doom merchants on TV, radio and press advising that the economy is not good both in the UK and Europe. Many will also have seen, or heard, stories such as the Tesco Store in Gosport recently having some 4300 people applying for 150 vacancies. The actual number per position was evidently just less than 30, which looks considerably better than the Daily Mail’s headline of 4300 applicants - but it still its a fair few.

However we know from our employers that they are still finding in many cases that it is hard to get good quality applicants for many positions in the UK. So what is going on...?

Well looking at the just the figures, we know that the UK unemployment rate is 7.9%. It was up on the last quarter reported but is actually DOWN some 0.3% on the year. At the end of 2012, national output may have declined over the quarter by some 0.3% GDP, but employment had RISEN by 154000 to 29.3m - the highest since records began.


If you don’t trust these figures then try these:
  • the ILO defined unemployment rate in Feb was some 71,000 LESS than reported a year ago.
  • a report by one of the job search engines (sorry, not allowed to identify which) found following their research over the summer that there was an overall 4% MORE vacancies than they counted the year before.
  • the Guardian has just this morning reported the claimant count DOWN by 12,500 - the LOWEST since June 2011.
  • Work and Pensions have just reported that the long term unemployed has FALLEN by 15,000.

In truth, it seems that since the start of 2012 there was actually good UK employment growth inspiring the likes of ‘The Jobs Economist’ reporting that 2012 was best year for UK employment growth since 2000. So over the period looking at the overall trend, what we think cannot be doubted, is that the labour market in terms of overall numbers of employed has held up perhaps surprisingly well given the overall economic climate. Our overseas readers in the US and Australasia will likely find this quite surprising given what they see on their TVs, however they may have noticed that there is no flood of UK migrants to their shores.

However as we know it has not all been roses. One interesting fact of this recession is that it has been women who have borne the brunt. Women’s unemployment in the UK is at a 25 year high, whilst men’s is decreasing. In the last two and a half years, 3 times as many women have become long-term unemployed as men. We agree with the comment that much of this is likely to be due to reductions in public sector employment and suggest that with more cuts expected in that sector, this will likely be the trend for the next couple of years. Where you live is also a factor. Skilled staff are likely to find jobs reasonably easily in the likes of London and the South East. However in the North of England for example, opportunities will be much thinner on the ground.

Wages. The ONS reports average wage increases have been below inflation since 2009 with some sectors experiencing actual declines (the overall average growth is only some 0.8%). However IT workers are on average bucking the trend. IT, a sector we know well, has seen advertised wages increase in 2012 by some 8%. Other sectors we see doing well are Construction and Call Centres both with above average wage increases. So whilst there may not be queues of skilled staff for every vacancy you may have, at least there is not so much pressure on pay for many positions.

If you are an employer or recruiter these findings will likely reinforce your current experience, which we think will be that it is not as easy to get good staff as non-hiring managers might think. However you will likely find that much depends on the sector you are recruiting for. You may get large numbers of applicants for relatively unskilled positions fairly easily (just as well you have one of our Careers/Recruitment systems to manage this for you) and you may find you need to sell your employer brand/proposition fairly hard for some roles e.g. IT roles which will likely be hard to fill (our systems help there too of course). This is not a normal recession. In many respects the UK is not experiencing a ‘job-market-recession’ given the overall economic context. We note however that some areas are considerably more sheltered than others

A parting comment. We are seeing more worries about employee retention.
Its seems employers are starting to worry about a general disquiet within their organisations. The idea being that when the recession finally lifts that their employees may en-mass look to see where the grass in greener and move job. The research can look very worrying we agree. However for what it is worth we think if employers become a bit more generous when the recession lifts there wont be the losses in staff suggested by some of the more ‘outlandish’ research findings we have seen. Just our view.