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UK – Job vacancies increasing at the fastest pace in 15 years

09 December 2013

The number of people placed in permanent and temporary/contract roles continued to rise in November, according to the latest Report on Jobs from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG.

Billings received from the employment of temporary/contract workers continued to rise in November. The rate of growth was strong, despite moderating to a five-month low. Anecdotal evidence suggested that higher short-term billings had been supported by increased client activity levels. There was a further increase in the number of permanent placements during November, although the rate of growth eased to its slowest since June.

Bernard Brown, Partner and Head of Business Services at KPMG, commented: “Six months ago, after almost five years of pain, most employers were wondering just how real the signs of recovery were. But people have short memories and, if the latest recruitment figures are anything to go by, they may well now be wondering what all the fuss was about. Business certainly seems to be more confident because, as 2013 draws to a close, organisations across the UK are maintaining their recruitment drive to the point that the rate of growth in vacancies has reached a 15 year high.”

“Of course, it is never that simple.  The opportunities may exist but employees don’t seem keen to take them, with the proportion of candidates making themselves available falling at the sharpest rate for six years.  It may be that people are still worried about job security but it is more likely that we are seeing a return of the traditional winter slowdown in recruitment as staff are more focused on Christmas than careers. As a result employers are trying to tempt top talent to change jobs by offering more in the way of cash or incentives.  It’s a tactic that may bring short-term success, but the risk of falsely inflating the jobs market must be considered.  Left unchecked, it could put unnecessary and unsustainable pressure on businesses just at the time their cash flow problems are easing,” he concluded.

Demand for staff rose for both permanent and temporary/contract staff, with the former posting sharper growth. Private sector demand for staff remained stronger than public sector demand. The strongest growth was signalled for permanent workers in the private sector, although temporary/contract staff also posted a marked increase. In the public sector, however, rates of expansion were slight for both permanent and short-term workers.

All nine categories of temporary/contract staff registered increased demand during November. The fastest rate of growth was indicated for Blue Collar workers, closely followed by Engineering employees. The slowest rise was signalled for Construction staff. Demand for permanent staff was broad-based across all nine types of permanent staff monitored by the survey. The strongest rate of expansion was for Engineering workers, as was the case in October. This was followed by Nursing/Medical/Care. The slowest rate of growth for permanent staff was for Blue Collar workers. 

The availability of temporary/contract staff declined for a fifth successive month. The latest fall was the sharpest for nine years. A number of respondents to the survey commented on the shortages of drivers. Other key roles with staff shortages are accountants, payroll, welders, general construction, general engineering, senior level staff, nurses, and sales.

The availability of permanent staff also continued to fall. The rate of decline was the sharpest since July 2007. Engineering and IT were reported to be most in demand, in addition to drivers, civil engineers, payroll, business development, marketing, media, legal secretaries, logistics, and sales.

Hourly rates of pay for temporary/contract workers continued to increase in November. The latest rise was solid and sharper than that recorded in October. Pay for temporary workers rose in all four English regions, with the strongest increase in the Midlands.

Average starting salaries for permanent jobs rose in November. The rate of increase was strong, having accelerated at its fastest pace in six years. Higher salaries were attributed to a combination of strong demand for staff and shortages of skilled candidates. Salaries rose in all four English regions, led by London.   

Commenting on the November figures, Kevin Green, CEO of the REC, said: ““We enter the New Year with job vacancies increasing at the fastest pace in 15 years. The fact that our figures show starting salary growth hitting a six year high, combined with continued skill and talent shortages, indicates that we can expect salaries to increase and job fluidity to accelerate into 2014. The Report on Jobs shows that all sectors, all regions and both the private and public sector are in growth, which is fantastic news for British businesses, the UK economy and people looking for work in 2014.”            

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