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UK job market at lowest levels of optimism for three years

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The UK jobs market is the least optimistic it has been for three years, according to HR consulting firm ManpowerGroup.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey asked 2,101 UK employers whether they intend to hire additional staff or reduce the size of their workforce in the coming quarter.

After three consecutive quarters with optimism ranked at +6% job prospects appear to be dwindling, and have reached their weakest point since the final quarter of 2012. The national seasonally adjusted net employment outlook has dropped two percentage points to +4%. 

ManpowerGroup said this reflects employers already feeling the impact of the national living wage. The national living wage, introduced in the summer budget, will see six million people over the age of 25 receive a 6% pay rise each year until 2020. But the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the extra cost to businesses could result in up to 60,000 job losses.

James Hick, managing director of ManpowerGroup Solutions UK&I, said he anticipated some employers looking to mitigate the extra costs by taking on more young or self-employed workers, who are not entitled to the national living wage.

“While on the surface this could be good news for youth unemployment, which currently stands at 16%, it could push a greater proportion of young people into low skilled jobs, resulting in an influx of less experienced workers into social care and other sectors hardest hit by the new legislation,” Hick said. “Meanwhile candidates under the age of 25 have been asking us why it is they will be paid less despite doing equal work.”