Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Employer hiring confidence rises even in lockdown

Businesses’ confidence in their ability to hire new staff continued to improve in the three months to February 2021, according to new data from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

Employer confidence in hiring rose to a net level of +16 in December-February 2021, six percentage points higher than in the three months to January. In February alone, this surged to net: +29, as the government’s roadmap for easing lockdown was announced and firms were able to start to put their re-opening plans into action.

In contrast, employers still believe economic conditions in the UK more broadly are getting worse. Confidence levels in the economy were at net: -50, though this was three percentage points higher than in the previous rolling quarter.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“Recruiters report that this latest lockdown has been much less damaging than many feared back in January. The relative health of the economy and the jobs market is now being reported by business surveys, official figures and our own data. Today’s figures show that hiring companies are confident about bringing people into their businesses now, and that has to be good news for all of us.

“There is still widespread pessimism about the wider economy, but that may be because respondents fear for sectors that have been shut down during lockdown. This caution is also reflected in employers leaning more on temporary work in uncertain times. As always, temping remains a great way for people to find work quickly and for firms to hire when the outlook is uncertain.”

Hiring intentions for temporary agency workers rose by eight points to net: +14, indicating that many firms will be looking to temporary staff to support them while the economic outlook is still uncertain. Meanwhile, employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff in the short term fell by five points, but remained high at net: +19.

Other key figures from the latest JobsOutlook include:

  • Employers’ intentions to hire staff in the medium term (over the coming 4-12 months) increased in December-February 2021, rising to net: +30 for permanent staff and net: +15 for agency workers.
  • There was heightened concern about shortages of construction workers this quarter, from both employers of permanent staff and agency workers, while demand remained high in the sector.
  • Two in five (40%) employers reported having reduced workers’ hours in the year to December-February 2021, up from just 12% in the previous 12 months.
  • Half (50%) of employers have never discussed how they could improve the diversity of candidates they consider hiring with a recruitment expert in the past two years.