UK employers fear EU talent pool is being drained

The UK’s finance, healthcare and construction industries fear that the “talent drawbridge” that enables them to hire staff from the continent will be pulled up once Brexit is complete.

According to a survey by employment group Manpower, some employers are engaged in a rush to try and recruit more EU workers. Generally, though, hiring confidence in the jobs market is waning because of concerns over Brexit, particularly in London and Scotland – the two areas of the country where the ‘remain’ vote was strongest in the EU referendum.Mark Cahill, managing director of ManpowerGroup UK, said, “With huge uncertainty surrounding sectors like banking and financial services – critical to the economy in London and Edinburgh – it’s no surprise that confidence in these regions is suffering.”The survey of more than 2,000 employers found that hiring confidence in six out of nine sectors had fallen to its lowest level in three years, particularly among SMEs, although overall the Manpower Net Employment Outlook index remained in positive territory at plus 5 per cent, down two points from the previous quarter.“The impending trigger of Article 50 is clearly affecting confidence in the jobs market,” said Mr Cahill. “The private sector plans to hire at its slowest rate since 2014, with only construction, manufacturing, and transport and communications planning to hire at previous levels.

High employment rate

“The employment rate is at its highest level since records began in 1971, but if you lift the bonnet to look at the engine of the economy, job creation has slowed and employers are becoming more cautious. The companies that have powered Britain’s economy through the immediate post-referendum period are easing off the gas.”Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup chairman and CEO, added, “Across the world, we are seeing positive hiring intentions despite a slow growth business environment. Employers are more subdued in Western Europe where there is more uncertainty as elections are set to happen through the year.“Having seen the surprising election results in the UK and US in 2016, European businesses know to expect the unexpected. Even in countries where hiring intentions are positive, some employers are experiencing challenges finding individuals with the most in-demand skills. We are seeing the emergence of a Skills Revolution, where helping people upskill and adapt to a fast-changing world of work will be the defining challenge of our time.”Responding to the survey, Employment Minister Damian Hinds said, “Leaving the EU presents huge new opportunities and we are focused on getting the best deal for the UK. The message is clear that Britain is open for business.
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A position of strength

“The fact is our employment market is in a position of strength. We are one of the fastest-growing major economies and there are more people in work here than ever before.”Publication of the survey coincided with the release of the latest economic forecast from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which upgraded its growth forecast for this year from 1.1 to 1.4 per cent, but slightly downgraded its prediction for 2018 from 1.4 to 1.3 per cent.Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said, “Thanks to the hard work of businesses and the continued resilience of the redoubtable British consumer, the UK economy is likely to grow somewhat more strongly than we’d previously expected during 2017.“Yet with several years of unspectacular growth ahead, coupled with inflationary pressures and the uncertain outcome of Brexit negotiations, it has never been more important to tackle the long-standing constraints that limit business confidence and growth here at home.“Last week’s Budget was a missed opportunity for the government to double down on infrastructure improvements and support for international trade, and to lower the heavy up-front taxes and costs that undermine business investment.”Suren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC, added, “We have upgraded our growth forecast for 2017, driven by revisions to official GDP data and a stronger-than-expected end to 2016 for the UK economy.“That said, the UK economy is still set to enter a more subdued period, with growth expected to remain materially below trend over the near term.”

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