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Neil Carberry
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 @RECPress - Business confidence in hiring continues to improve as lockdown exit plan announced 

Employers’ confidence in their ability to hire new staff rose to net: +7 in November 2020-January 2021, an increase of two percentage points on the previous rolling quarter, according to new REC data. 

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)’s latest JobsOutlook survey also found that employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff in the short term rose in the three months to January 2021, to net: +25. This came despite some signs of the January lockdown slowing hiring. It shows the underlying demand that exists in the labour market – businesses will be looking to hire in the coming months, and even more so now that the Prime Minister’s lockdown exit plan has been announced. 

The lockdown did translate into a further decrease in confidence in the wider economy however, with confidence levels falling to net: -53 in the three months to January 2021. With the path ahead now clear, and the vaccine programme making excellent progress, this should improve in the months ahead. 

The REC survey also found that while many businesses will be looking to recruitment agencies for high quality candidates this year and one in six (16%) would welcome advice on training and upskilling their staff. Just one in twelve (8%) would find advice on how to improve diversity and inclusion in their business useful. Yet recent REC research  shows that two in three (63%) firms found that working with a recruitment agency helped them increase the diversity of new hires. More companies looking to professional recruiters to help them on inclusion would be transformational. Recruiters will have a vital role to play in the UK’s recovery – and can help make the labour market more productive and inclusive in the process. 

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: 

“With the whole of the UK in lockdown throughout January, it is a good sign that employers’ confidence levels and hiring plans have continued to improve across the last quarter – albeit slowly. Lockdown exit plans, set out by the Prime Minister and First Ministers this week, will give companies a further boost and allow them to firm up their plans for re-opening. 

“Nevertheless, June is a long way away. Businesses all over the UK will be looking to next week’s Budget as an opportunity for the government to match economic action to pandemic ambition. That includes cashflow support – like extending the terms of the VAT deferral and maintaining furlough – but also action to boost the recovery, like cuts in employers’ National Insurance and reforms to the apprenticeship levy. 

“As we start to open up the economy again it is vital that businesses take this opportunity to build back in a more productive and inclusive way – and that starts by taking recruitment seriously. Recent REC research shows that good recruitment boosts UK productivity by £7.7 billion every year, as well as helping to improve diversity in the workplace. Getting recruitment right will play a vital role in kickstarting the economy in the coming months.” 

Other key figures from the latest JobsOutlook include: 

  • Employers’ hiring intentions for temporary agency workers were at net: +6 in the short term and net: +12 in the medium term – significantly higher than the net: -2 and net: -4, respectively, recorded a year earlier. 
  • Despite the pandemic, more than a third (38%) of private sector hirers and more than half (51%) of public sector employers had increased staffing levels in the past 12 months. 
  • However, two in five (40%) employers reported that they had reduced workers’ hours over the year to November 2020-January 2021, up from 12% in the previous year. 
  • Satisfaction levels with recruitment agencies rose from 67% in November 2019-January 2020 to 75% this year.


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