The latest Report on Jobs survey from IHS Markit and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reveals that both permanent staff placements and temporary/contracting placements grew again in March, although the pace of expansion for the latter was the softest in 13 months.
Permanent placements rose sharply across the UK at a rate that slightly outpaced the vigorous rise seen in the previous month.
Demand for staff, as evidenced in the number of vacancies on offer, also grew robustly, even though the increase eased modestly to reach a 15-month low. This appears to have been driven by the softer upturn in temporary or contracting vacancies.
Candidate availability continued its sharp downward trajectory in March, reflecting a trend recorded in most previous REC surveys. However, the rate of decline eased to its slowest pace in 12 months.
As for pay, pressure for staff continued to exert an upward momentum: pay rates for flexible workers climbed at their most rapid pace since last September, while average starting salaries for permanent roles continued to climb steeply in March, albeit slowing to the softest pace in one year.
Regionally, the sharpest rise in contractor billings was recorded in Scotland although growth was also vigorous in the South of England and the Midlands. More modest upturns were recorded in London and the North of England.
As in previous surveys, the private sector outperformed the public sector in terms of vacancies for both permanent and flexible workers. Marked increases in vacancies for both types of staff were recorded in the private sector, although vacancies for both categories also climbed in the public sector too, and at a steeper rate than the previous month.
Demand for flexible workers strengthened in March for all of the sectors monitored in the survey, with the most pronounced rise occurring in Hotel & Catering, followed closely by Blue Collar.
Engineering came top of the demand league table for permanent staff, followed closely by IT & Computing. Vacancies for permanent staff, though, grew across all seven of the remaining job categories.
Noting that demand for staff remains high, REC Director of Policy Tom Hadley also drew attention to the continuing shortage of candidates for many roles. Employers were, he observed, raising starting pay levels to entice candidates away from their current roles, with pay for flexible workers accelerating especially vigorously.
“With inflation outstripping pay growth for over a year now, high pay offers will be tempting, as the pressure on starting salaries still isn’t translating into pay rises for staff who stay put. Employers need to look at other means to keep staff, such as creating a good workplace culture and offering progression opportunities.”