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Demand for retail staff drops amid high street crisis

The majority of sectors registered higher permanent staff vacancies than temporary ones in April, except retail

There's been a significant dip in demand for permanent retail staff, signalling further problems for this sector, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) .

The body's monthly Report on Jobs found that retail was the only industry to record lower demand for permanent workers during April.

Although there had been a slower rise in permanent placements than in previous years, the majority of job categories registered higher permanent staff vacancies than temporary vacancies in April. The steepest rates of growth were seen across the engineering and IT and computing sectors.

Tom Hadley, director of policy and professional services at the REC, encouraged non-retail employers to be open-minded about the opportunity an oversupply of retail workers looking for roles in other sectors might present.

“Following the recent headlines about high street closures, it’s unsurprising to see demand for retail staff falling this month. With consumers increasingly shopping online it’s a good time for retail workers to think about how their skills translate into other areas. For example, recruiters say there’s huge demand for staff in IT, and there is also a shortage of order pickers and packers," he said.

“Helping people make career transitions will become increasingly important in this fast-changing business and employment landscape,” he added.

The REC’s report found that demand for staff strengthened overall, with job vacancies reaching a three-month high in April.

Pay growth has also gathered pace with starting salaries for permanent workers continuing to rise sharply in April, reflecting the rate of inflation picking up from March. Rates of pay for temporary staff also rose to the greatest extent for two years.

However, candidate availability for both permanent and temporary roles declined further at the start of the second quarter.

Hadley said that this means employers will have to work hard to attract the best talent.

“Demand for staff is still on the rise in every other sector [besides retail], but candidate availability keeps dropping. Our data shows that employers are paying more to attract the right people,” he said.

“For employers the challenge is to stay ahead of the competition to maintain and enhance your workforce. This is about more than just pay, it is about providing progression opportunities and a positive workplace culture. As recruitment gets harder the only solution for employers is to get better at attracting and retaining the right skills and staff."

The Report on Jobs is a monthly publication produced by IHS Markit on behalf of the REC. The report features original survey data that provides cross-sector analysis of the UK labour market, drawing on survey data provided by recruitment consultancies.