Key points:

  • Permanent placements and temp billings both rise, but at weaker rates
  • Vacancy growth at four-month low
  • Higher private sector demand for staff offsets public sector decline
  • Permanent salary growth at 17-month high, albeit still modest


Summary:

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG Report on Jobs – published today – provides the most comprehensive guide to the UK labour market, drawing on original survey data provided by recruitment consultancies. 

Staff appointments rise at slower pace...

Recruitment consultancies signalled further increases in permanent placements and temp billings during February. However, in both cases the rates of expansion moderated. Permanent appointments rose at the slowest pace in the current five-month sequence of expansion, while short-term appointments increased at the weakest rate since last August.    

...while vacancy growth softens

Overall demand for staff rose at the slowest rate in four months during February, although the pace of expansion remained marked. Slightly weaker increases were signalled for both permanent and temporary vacancies. 

Faster increase in permanent salaries

Starting salaries for people placed in permanent jobs by recruitment consultancies rose further in February. The rate of inflation quickened to a 17-month high, although it remained modest in the context of historical data. Hourly pay rates for temporary/contract staff were little-changed, showing only a fractional rise.

Permanent staff availability down slightly; temp availability rises

The availability of candidates to fill permanent vacancies decreased for a third consecutive month in February, albeit marginally. Temporary/contract staff availability meanwhile increased for the second month running and at a modest rate.

Regional and sector variation

Growth of permanent placements was registered in all English regions during the latest survey period, with the North posting the fastest expansion and London the slowest.  

The strongest growth of temporary/contract staff billings was signalled in the North during February. Increases in the Midlands and London were only marginal, while the South recorded a slight decrease.

Private sector permanent staff vacancies increased at the strongest rate since the start of the series in December 2011, while growth of private sector temporary vacancies was the sharpest in three months. In contrast, public sector demand for staff decreased, although for both permanent and temporary staff the latest falls were modest and weaker than recorded one month previously.

Latest data pointed to higher levels of demand for staff across all eight monitored categories during February. The strongest growth was signalled for IT & Computing workers, whereas the slowest expansion was indicated for Blue Collar employees.

Nursing/Medical/Care remained the most sought-after type of temporary/contract worker in February, as has been the case throughout the past 13 months. The seven remaining categories all saw vacancy growth, although rates of expansion were modest in the case of Executive/Professional and Hotel & Catering.

Comments:

REC director of policy Tom Hadley said:

“Competition for candidates intensified this month with private sector employers racing to secure the talent they need for growth from a decreasing pool of skilled workers. Starting salaries have risen to a 17 month high as companies realise they need to make more attractive offers to ensure they can persuade workers to join their workforce and not their rivals.

“There’s also noticeable demand for skilled staff to support infrastructure developments such as water and rail. With the Chancellor’s Budget only weeks away and more investment in infrastructure expected, a growing concern will be whether or not the UK has the skilled staff needed to get these projects off the ground.”

“This month saw increased demand for both temporary and permanent workers across all the sectors we measure, which is a really positive indicator for a continued recovery.”

Bernard Brown, Partner and Head of Business Services at KPMG, comments:

“For six months employment has been rising at such a rapid pace that it seemed to be outstripping economic growth.  Amid the doom and gloom of recent High Street closures the jobs market made little sense, but the February figures suggest that uncertainty is beginning to reverberate in organisations across the country.

“Appointments may still be moving in a positive direction, but with the pace of recruitment dropping to its slowest pace for five months, it won’t be a surprise if hiring decisions are delayed further, putting candidates and employers in an unwanted state of limbo.

“The simple fact is that the jobs market cannot be viewed in isolation as employers will only step up recruitment if they are confident they can afford to take on new staff.  Whilst retailers have reported improved performance at the cash tills during February, sustainable improvement in employment remains dependent on the growth of the economy as a whole. Until this happens we are likely to see a continuation of this scenario, where two steps forward are followed by one step back.  In other words, recovery may be on the way, but it is a long path and one negotiated by very small steps.”

Full reports and historical data from the Report on Jobs are available by subscription. Please contact economics@markit.com