Professional hiring recovering from COVID slump

After an unprecedented slump last year in professional recruitment because of pandemic lockdowns, there was a marked pick-up in the UK market last month, according to a new survey.

Vacancies for both contract and permanent jobs showed a healthy, month-on-month increase in January "as optimism returned to the professional recruitment sector", according to the latest 'Recruitment Trends Snapshot' report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).The survey data, provided by growth analytics platform cube19, revealed that following the usual dip in recruitment activity over the Christmas period, hiring bounced back in January with contract roles increasing 42 per cent and permanent ones up 38 per cent.Additionally, while the effects of the pandemic resulted in a 28 per cent fall in permanent vacancies over the year to January, the annual rate is continuing to decrease: down from 32 per cent in the year to December.Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see such a healthy uptick in vacancies for both permanent and contract roles month-on-month following the usual seasonal dip in December."And while we entered the New Year with the announcement of another national lockdown, schools closing once more, and a return to widespread remote working, our data suggest that this hasn’t dampened hiring intentions with businesses remaining optimistic despite the current restrictions.“In addition, the fact that the percentage drop in year-on-year vacancies for permanent jobs is closing indicates we are certainly moving in the right direction. It is also interesting to note that we are seeing higher value contract placements indicative of the increasing reliance on the professional contingent workforce as employers turn to agile and flexible hiring solutions in an uncertain market.”
Daily tracking data provided by cube19 showed there was a flurry of activity immediately after the Christmas period with 14 per cent more contract jobs added in the first two weeks of January compared to the last two weeks of the month.Among permanent vacancies, there was a steady flow of jobs throughout the month with just a two per cent difference between the first and second half of the month.Interview numbers increased by 18.5 per cent in the last two weeks of January compared to the first two, suggesting that this increase will translate into positive placement numbers in February, according to APSCo.Joe McGuire, global sales director of cube19, commented: “The number of new vacancies in January is very positive and this is in spite of the Bank of England reporting that GDP is expected to fall by about four per cent in Q1."They are also projecting that following this, there will be a rapid recovery toward pre-Covid levels throughout 2021, which means opportunity will continue to grow in our industry this year."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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