Coronavirus: Most UK employers expect to hire more staff soon

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
Passengers wearing face masks at Waterloo station as face coverings become mandatory to wear on public transport in the country, with the easing of further lockdown restrictions introduced to combat the spread of coronavirus, in London, Monday June 15, 2020. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)
Firms' hiring confidence has picked up. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA via AP

Most UK employers expect to hire more permanent staff in the next three months as the economy emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, new figures suggest.

Confidence among employers in making hiring and investment decisions has increased in the past month for the first time since the pandemic hit, according to a leading business survey.

A poll by the Recruitment & Employers Confederation (REC) shows a “good recovery” in demand for staff compared to last month as lockdown restrictions have eased.

The body’s Jobs Outlook report analyses sentiment by subtracting the number of employers who expect staff numbers to fall from the number expecting a rise on a scale between -100 and +100.

A net balance of +14 employers expected demand for permanent hires to rise in the next three months, up from +6 the previous month, and +15 said the same for the next four to 12 months.

READ MORE: UK employers have shed almost 650,000 jobs since crisis began

Separate research by the REC shows the number of job adverts “slowly increasing” in recent weeks, with 1.05 million job postings in the second week of July.

“Even at times like these, there are always opportunities out there for jobseekers,” said Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC.

Business confidence in hiring has risen. Chart: REC
Business confidence in hiring has risen. Chart: REC

“It’s good to see employer confidence rising as the lockdown measures ease – at this stage we would expect things to be getting better month-by-month.”

But he said firms were still “very worried” about the overall outlook for the economy. “While some are hiring, many are having to make tough decisions around laying people off.” About 17% of employers said they had made redundancies in the past year, compared to 9% of respondents a month earlier.

Official figures released last week show vacancies at their lowest since records began in 2001, though the data is less up-to-date, covering April to June. The 333,000 recorded vacancies captured by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), less than half the levels seen in the previous quarter or a year earlier—also marking the biggest quarterly and annual drops on record.

ONS data also suggests UK employers have shed almost 650,000 jobs since March, while out-of-work benefit claims soared in the early stages of the pandemic.

More than 9.5 million workers have been placed on government-subsidised furlough leave since lockdown, staving off a larger rise in unemployment. But concerns have grown in recent months that a fresh jobs crisis has begun, with economic recovery seen as too weak to sustain employment levels as government furlough support is tapered off.

A wave of household names have announced thousands of job cuts in the past month, particularly in the retail, hospitality and aviation sectors.

Employment minister Mims Davies said the latest uptick in hiring confidence in the survey was “welcome news, especially for jobseekers.”

She highlighted the UK government’s recently announced ‘plan for jobs,’ saying it was “about giving business the confidence to hire and retain staff.”

“We know there is still uncertainty and these are difficult times for many but no-one will be left without hope and our £30 billion package of support is helping to spur on our country into recovery.”