The most recent JobsOutlook survey of 600 UK employers by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) suggests a mixed picture of hiring intentions, which is likely to evolve further as Brexit negotiations proceed toward a final resolution. Employers remain predominantly pessimistic about the British economy, yet appear to be adopting a pragmatic if cautious approach to taking on more staff.
More of the employers polled in the monthly survey (33%) believe that economic conditions will deteriorate further than believe it will improve (23%).
Yet, while uncertainty about hiring plans remained prevalent in March – with 20% reporting that they “don’t know” whether they will increase, maintain or reduce temporary/contracting headcounts over the coming four to twelve months – there are some moderately encouraging signs that hiring intentions may be firming up. In the previous month, for example, the number of employers stating that they didn’t know what their hiring plans for temporary/contracting staff would be over this period stood at 32%. Despite the uncertainties, some employers are clearly making pragmatic hiring plans.
Other key findings from the survey were as follows:
- 22% of employers who engage temporary/contracting staff say that they now plan to increase headcount in the coming four to twelve months. This is double the number of those who reported increased hiring plans for temp/contract workers last month, which stood at a significantly feebler 11%.
- Just 17% of respondents who hire permanent employees plan any headcount increases over the coming four to twelve months. This remains similar to the number recorded the previous month but is a substantial 22% lower than the level recorded at the same time last year.
Over the short term (the next three months), hiring plans in March remained similar to those in February with 15% intending to increase permanent headcounts and 16% intending to expand their temporary/contracting workforce.
Noting that British businesses continue to feel pessimistic about the prospects for the economy, Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at the REC, also observed that the one-year countdown to the formal Brexit withdrawal began on 29 March 2018, making it impossible for employers to postpone hiring plans any longer.
He added: “Employers are potentially turning to temps, which could bring opportunities to candidates interested in temporary work and the flexibility it affords, but is also a sign employers are affected by economic and political uncertainty. It’s less risky to bring people in to meet demand and keep them for a limited time, rather than spend the time hiring a new permanent member of staff when you don’t know what business will look like in the next year.”