12 February 2020
Improved market confidence leads to strongest rise in permanent placements for over a year

Latest findings from REC…


Key findings

Permanent staff appointments increase modestly…

…but temp billings fall for first time since April 2013

Permanent staff vacancies rise at quickest pace since last March



January marked the first back-to-back increase in permanent staff appointments for over a year amid reports of firmer market confidence, according to the latest KPMG and REC, UK . However, billings received from the employment of temporary staff fell slightly for the first time since early 2013. Vacancy trends also highlighted strengthening demand for permanent workers, while temp vacancy growth steadied.

However, concerns over the outlook and an already low unemployment rate continued to weigh on the supply of workers. January data pointed to further steep reductions in both permanent and temporary candidate numbers, with the former noting the quicker rate of decline. Pay pressures were meanwhile relatively subdued, with permanent starting salaries rising at the softest pace for three-and-a-half years.

The report is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies.


Permanent placement growth picks up in January

UK recruiters signalled a further increase in permanent staff appointments in January amid reports of improved business confidence following the general election. Though modest, the rate of growth was the quickest recorded for just over a year. In contrast, temp billings fell for the first time since April 2013, with a number of recruiters blaming this on upcoming changes to IR35 legislation.


Vacancy growth improves to ten-month high

The total number of staff vacancies across the UK rose at the quickest pace for ten months in January, with growth largely driven by improved demand for permanent workers. Notably, permanent staff vacancies expanded at the steepest rate since last March, while growth of demand for short-term workers was unchanged from December.


Starting pay increases at softer pace…

Latest data signalled softer increases in starting pay for both permanent and temporary workers in January. Though solid, the latest upturn in permanent starting salaries was the slowest seen for three-and-a-half years. Temp wage inflation was meanwhile among the softest recorded since late-2016.

…despite further marked drop in candidate supply

Slower rises in starting pay occurred despite further sharp falls in candidate supplies. Although the drop in permanent worker availability eased slightly at the start of 2020, the reduction in temp staff numbers the most marked seen since last June.


Regional and Sector Variations

Regional data pointed to divergent trends, with permanent staff appointments rising in the North and the South of England, but falling in London and the Midlands. London and the South of England both recorded lower temp billings during January after increases in December. However, growth was sustained in the Midlands and the North of England.

Data broken down by public and private sectors, which are not adjusted for seasonal factors, showed divergent vacancy trends.

Permanent staff vacancies rose at a sharp and accelerated pace in the private sector, but fell slightly in the public sector. Meanwhile, demand for temporary workers fell across both monitored sectors.

Increases in demand for permanent staff were recorded across all ten monitored job categories bar Retail at the start of 2020. The quickest expansion in vacancies was seen in Accounting/Financial, closely followed by Engineering.

The majority of monitored sectors noted greater demand for short-term workers in January, with the strongest increase seen in Engineering. Only two sector recorded lower demand for temp workers, namely Retail and IT & Computing.



Commenting on the latest survey results, Neil Carberry, Recruitment & Employment Confederation chief executive, said:

“It’s good to see that businesses have grown in confidence over the past two months and taken the opportunity to restart hiring. Permanent placements are up again, and demand for staff has risen at the quickest rate for ten months. This is good news for employers, recruiters and candidates – all three can now get on with making the economy flourish in 2020.

“But the upcoming IR35 reforms are having a negative impact on the availability and placement of temporary workers. It is vital that people pay the right amount of tax and that the system is fair, but for both of those things to happen we think the government needs to pause and think again on how IR35 changes. The temporary labour market is being stifled, and that’s not good for employers or our economy.”

James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said:

“Following the UK exit of the EU, there are promising signs that the UK jobs market is finally on the up with the strongest rise in permanent places for over a year – good news for job hunters.

“However, with regulatory and trade negotiations all to play for, there is still a long way to go for a deal to be struck and businesses to have the clarity they need.

“Brexit is unchartered territory so the reality is the uncertainty will linger, but key investment decisions on hiring need to be made to build confidence and help get the UK back on the path to growth.”

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