Job applications and recruitment fall amid general election uncertainty

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Both job applications and appointments fell last month amid ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the upcoming general election, two new studies show

The latest KPMG and Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) UK Report on Jobs found that the number of people placed into permanent positions fell in November, as the UK gears up for the general election this Thursday (12 December).

An index of 48.8 was recorded for permanent positions, while temporary billings rose only slightly with an index of 50.5.

This is the ninth month running that placement numbers have declined overall.

The report, compiled from questionnaires completed by around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies, presents index readings around 50 to indicate its findings.

A number above 50 signals an increase from October to November, a number below 50 signals a decrease.

Permanent placements declined in the south of England and the Midlands, but rose in the north of England and London. The Midlands saw the quickest increase in temporary billings.

Continuing an ongoing trend, demand for permanent and temporary staff declined in the public sector (to 45.7 and 47.1 respectively). In the private sector permanent staff demand rose to 52.4 and temp demand to 54.8.

More permanent roles opened in nursing, medical and care than in any other sector last month, followed by IT and computing and blue collar. Nursing, medical and care also offered the most temporary roles, the report said.

It also showed that vacancies and candidate supply were subdued in the last month.

Demand for staff grew at the weakest pace in more than a decade (51.4), while candidate numbers fell at the quickest rate for five months (41.2 for permanent staff and 46.1 for temporary). Recruiters surveyed widely commented that they were hesitant to seek new hires in the face of Brexit instability.

Pay rates for both permanent and temporary roles also rose at slower rates (55.2 and 54.0 respectively) and fell below their long-run averages in November.

Neil Carberry, Recruitment & Employment Confederation chief executive, said that the political uncertainty is taking its toll on business confidence.

“Today’s figures show exactly why this election needs to focus on work. The jobs market is still strong, but uncertainty is taking its toll,” he said. “Any incoming government must move quickly to boost business confidence and implement policies that will help companies and individuals to make great work happen.”

Carberry welcomed the recent pledges made by the main political parties.

“With that in mind it was good to hear Sajid Javid say that a Conservative government would review the planned changes to IR35 if they win the general election, alongside similar commitments from Labour and the Liberal Democrats,” he said.

“Everyone should pay the right amount of tax – and that must mean thinking again and stopping 2020 implementation.”

Separate research from CV-Library also found that job advertisements and job applications have fallen in the last month.

The job board revealed that the number of advertisements fell by 13% between October and November, creating a 1.7% drop from the same period in 2018.

The industries that saw the biggest drop in job adverts between October and November include retail (down by 27.2% from October), automotive (down by 20.1%) and distribution (down by 20.1%).

The largest reduction in adverts was found in Cardiff (down by 20.9% from October), Nottingham (down by 18.5%) and Glasgow (down by 18.2%), suggesting a national trend rather than a single pocket of the UK suffering more than most.

CV-Library’s research also showed an 11.8% drop in job applications between October and November, with key sectors experiencing bigger drops, including marketing (down 22.3%), education (down 17.9%) and automotive (down 16.6%).

Candidates were most reluctant to apply for new jobs in Scotland and Wales, with Perth down 25.1% and Cardiff down 18.8% in application volumes.

Lee Biggins, chief executive and founder of CV-Library, pointed to several reasons for the drop off.

“It’s important to remember that [...] this time of year is usually quieter for recruitment across the board,” he said. “But it’s no surprise that the industries with the largest drop in job advertisements are those that will be directly affected by Brexit.

“With the UK set to make a monumental decision in less than a fortnight and the fate of Brexit hanging in the balance, many organisations will be waiting for the dust to settle before moving forward with their hiring campaigns.”

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