Recruitment cycle speeds up as UK hiring outlook brightens

Finance recruitment shows signs of growth as official figures reveal employment levels continued to fall in Q4 2020.
Recruitment cycle speeds up as UK hiring outlook brightens

Healthcare, information and communications technology (ICT), and business services are among the UK sectors showing the greatest intention to hire, according to a recent quarterly survey of 2,000 UK employers.

The finance and insurance sector is also showing a positive hiring intention.

The CIPD/Adecco quarterly Labour Market Outlook Winter 2020–21 found that overall the “net employment intentions” figure rose to +11 from -1 in the autumn. This is a measure of the difference between the proportion of employers expecting to add jobs and those planning to cut jobs.

There are, however, substantial differences among sectors: the highest are healthcare (+40), ICT (+30), and business services (+23). In contrast, net employment intentions are negative or low in hospitality (–6), finance and insurance (+2), and administration and support service activities (+2).

Finance recruitment

David Stevens, FCMA, CGMA, director of UK-based specialist finance recruiter Jammy Recruitment, said the recruitment market had been extremely slow during the first UK lockdown last spring. However, as companies were able to operate their businesses in a COVID-19-secure manner, their confidence to recruit had grown. He predicts “significant amounts of confidence to come”, which will increase in the second half of this year and peak in 2022.

He said the retail sector, predominantly relating to online, and including food rather than fashion, and the leisure, technology, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), and property sectors have seen “a significant increase in recruitment”.

He added: “The average time to advertise, recruit, and hire has reduced by about a third. Speed really is of the essence with some roles and candidates.

“[Companies] are seeking the skills to take data, pull together analysis and insight, business partner [with] respective areas outside of finance, and create additional value through increased sales or reduced costs,” Stevens explained.

He said that transformation, project, and business change skills were also in high demand. “Having the ability to critically evaluate any areas of inefficiencies and embed new processes to save time — and ultimately FTE [full-time-equivalent staff] — is required. These processes are predominately underpinned by the use of technology,” he added.

Regional differences

In the Great Britain nations and regions, the Labour Market Outlook revealed that employer hiring confidence is highest in the North-West of England (+20) and lowest in the West Midlands (+2).

Net employment hiring intentions are:

  • North-West of England: +20
  • South-West of England: +19
  • East Midlands: +13
  • Yorkshire and Humberside: +12
  • Wales: +11
  • North-East of England: +10
  • London: +8
  • East of England: +8
  • South-East of England: +5
  • Scotland: +4
  • West Midlands: +2

Overall, over half (56%) of UK employers who participated in the CIPD/Adecco survey indicated they are planning to recruit in the first quarter of 2021, up from 53% in the previous quarter and 49% six months ago. However, this is down from 66% in the same period last year.

Fewer redundancies?

Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s senior labour market adviser, said in a press release that unemployment may be close to its peak and may even “undershoot official forecasts, especially given the reported fall in the supply of overseas workers”.

He added: “However, it is far too soon to rule out further significant private-sector redundancies later in the year if the government does not extend the furlough scheme to the end of June or if the economy suffers any additional unexpected shocks.”

A further positive indicator is the shift in the proportion of organisations expecting to make some redundancies in the next three months. This is down ten percentage points from the autumn quarter and is driven by a fall in the private sector. “Redundancy intentions have fallen particularly steeply in the private sector — down from 34% in the autumn report to 20% in the current quarter,” the report said.

Meanwhile, official figures released Tuesday covering October to December last year showed that the UK unemployment rate had continued to rise — by 0.4 percentage points to 5.1% compared with the previous quarter. The employment rate had continued to fall, by 0.3 percentage points to 75.0% over the same period.

Office for National Statistics figures also released Tuesday showed that the number of job vacancies in the three months to January 2021 was 26% lower than a year ago — an improvement on summer 2020 when vacancies were down by nearly 60% year-on-year. However, the rate of improvement has slowed in the most recent few months, the ONS said.

— Oliver Rowe ( is an FM magazine senior editor.