The latest JobsOutlook survey from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has registered a noticeable uptick in employer confidence about the economy.

The survey measures overall confidence in terms of the net balance between those employers who believe economic conditions are improving and those who believe they are worsening. This month, the number of hirers who believe that conditions are getting better grew by 7%.

That still leaves the overall net balance at -3, but nonetheless represents a significant improvement on previous recent surveys in this series. The overall figures are:

  • 29% of decision-makers believe that economic conditions are deteriorating.
  • 26% believe they are getting better.

The upward movement in employer confidence has not as yet, however, translated into stronger permanent hiring intentions. Just 14% of the respondents reported plans to expand permanent headcounts in the coming three months, compared to 22% recorded at the same time last year.

Plans for hiring flexible workers, however, firmed up compared to last year. Only 12% of the employers polled in April reported that they were uncertain about short-term hiring plans, significantly down from the 18% recorded in March and the 34% recorded in February.

The monthly survey of 600 employers distributed across the UK also revealed the following:

  • Candidate availability in the temporary/contracting market continues to deteriorate: almost half (47%) of the employers polled expect there to be a shortage of short-term talent in the sectors they operate within, a significant rise on the 35% recorded March.
  • The percentage of decision-makers who increased headcounts or pay (44% and 47% respectively) has been declining since June 2017, a trend which the REC believes is attributable to weakening employer confidence since the EU referendum.

Welcoming the increase in employer confidence as a significant step in the right direction, away from the downward trajectory it had hitherto been following, REC Director of Policy Tom Hadley expressed hope that this would translate into more firms and organisations expanding their teams and strengthening their hiring plans.

However, he also sounded a note of caution about the impact and extent of employer gloom over the economy:

“Even if they want to expand their workforce, they are worried about finding the workers they need, especially for temporary roles. Short-term placements are crucial for jobs that are seasonal or project-based, like hotel staff during holiday season, or construction workers on major infrastructure projects.

“Employers in hospitality, construction and health especially rely on temporary workers from the EU and will suffer if they can’t access them. The post-Brexit immigration system has to reflect the importance of temporary staff and ensure that processes are as quick and efficient as possible.”

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