Data from the Official of National Statistics (ONS) once again have confirmed that the labour market is the tightest it’s ever been. Despite unemployment rates being at the lowest they’ve ever been, economic inactivity is on the rise.

Official data suggests that over Q1 this year there were 1,288,000 recorded vacancies here in the UK; the highest number since records began.  This is more than double the number of vacancies over the same period last year (+105.8%) and +56.6% higher than the number of vacancies recorded just before the pandemic.

Looking at these numbers from outside the recruitment industry, you could be forgiven for thinking that a high number of vacancies would be the dream scenario. However, the labour market squeeze means the challenges recruitment professionals face are significant.

If you are regular readers of our monthly look into the recruitment landscape, you’ll be familiar with some of the roadblocks standing in the way of placing job seekers in roles.

The REC ‘Report on Jobs’ collects the experiences of our recruitment colleagues from across the UK. Our peers have confirmed the challenges that we too at Ignite are witnessing.  Despite a robust demand for staff and strong hiring intentions from clients, it is candidate scarcity that is constraining the ability to hire.

Here are some of the highlights from this month’s report.

Vacancies.

As we’ve already mentioned, there were a record number of vacancies in the opening months of 2022. April was no different. Reports from the panellists asked across all 4 regions of the UK have confirmed that they too have recorded increased amounts of work from buying clients.

The total number of vacancies has lifted for 15 consecutive months across both permanent and temporary/contract roles.  Anecdotally, there was a slightly higher demand for permanent staff than for temporary roles.

When considering the disparity between public and private sector roles, it’s worth noting that the demand for permanent staff in the public sector was most significant. Temporary or contract roles in the public sector saw the slowest rate of demand.

At Ignite.

Here at Ignite, we would agree. We have noticed a significant leap in the number of contract roles on our to-do list.  Over Q1 and the start of Q2, we have agreed terms with several new clients who are looking to the contract market to fill their vacancies. We have also worked to extend existing assignments with organisations where we already have runners out.

If you are a tech or digital contractor looking for a new assignment, we have plenty on offer. Head to our contract jobs pages to browse through these opportunities.

The numbers of permanent vacancies also remain high and we are busier than ever. We’ve been able to fill these roles successfully using our extensive networks to approach passive candidates as well as starting conversations with active job seekers in the market. Digital transformation has been prioritised in the wake of the pandemic. With transformation and change programs high on the agenda, we are being asked to source the top tech talent to fill these roles.

Our permanent job board is full of opportunities with leading organisations undergoing exciting periods of development and business change. If you are a skilled tech professional in today’s job market, you have a plethora of career-defining roles to browse through.

Vacancies by sector.

Last month’s The Recruitment Landscape highlighted that IT was the industry sector that could report the highest number of permanent vacancies. This month though, there has been a significant shift. IT has fallen to 4th, being superseded by the Hotel and Catering industries, Engineering and Blue Collar taking gold, silver, and bronze respectively.

Hiring.

At the start of Q2, panellists noted sharp rises in both permanent and temporary/contract billings. However, despite these peaks, the rate of growth across both sectors eased to 13 and 12 month lows, respectively.

This was true across all 4 regions of the UK, where our colleagues all confirmed slower rates of growth.  in the Midlands reported the steepest increase in perm placements.

Interestingly, across April, temporary billings had the weakest levels of expansion despite the increase in reported billings.  This has been the case since August 2020, with April being the third consecutive month where they’ve slowed.   Overall though, the upturn in temp billings was sharp and higher than the average.  Again, this finding was echoed across all 4 regions of the UK.

Candidate availability.

Once again, candidate availability fell for the 14th month in a row. However, the rate of the drop was the softest panellists had witnessed for 3 months.   Once again, it was reported that the supply of permanent candidates continues to fall faster than those within the temporary or contract markets.

Although the temp/contract candidate shortages are less significant, they too, still fell. Peers suggested that shortages within this market could be attributed to a general level of low unemployment, a shortage of foreign workers and an emerging greater preference among candidates for permanent roles.

Candidate scarcity was reported across all 4 areas of the UK.

Political instability and covid uncertainty, as well as Brexit movement restrictions, have been identified by respondents as being the three main contributors to such low candidate numbers.

In demand skills.

Digital transformation is dominating our JD descriptions. It seems that many of our clients are all undergoing change projects to digitalise their businesses. Of course, such major work cannot happen without the skilled teams to action it.  These are the top skills that were required within the IT and tech space over April.

  • Automation Testers
  • Developers
  • Infrastructure Analysts
  • Software Engineers
  • Analysts.

Over on our tech jobs page, we have several vacancies for every one of these roles, and so can 100% agree with these requirements.

We would add DevOps professionals to this list, as companies look to leverage the power of streamlining the software development lifecycle.

Pay.

The ONS has revealed that employee earnings (including bonuses) have increased by 5.4% in the three months to April 2022, and by 4.8% from the three months before that.

This is the fastest rate of pay growth since the three months to September 2021.  The expansion has been driven by an increase in permanent salaries across the private sector (+6.2% from +5.4%).

The continuing skills shortage, candidate scarcity and demand for talent have created a situation where organisations are all competing to secure new hires. This pressure has culminated in a war for talent, where organisations are having to use salaries to attract and secure new hires. Starting salaries have been on the rise throughout our series of monthly reports and April saw further steep spikes in starting pay across all sectors.

a red for hire sign on a metal post

In sum.

The following months will see businesses continue to struggle against opponents beyond their control. Inflation has risen +6.2% in the year to March and shows no sign of slowing. Indeed, economists and financial theorists all anticipate continued rises.  In such a climate businesses will struggle. Tax and energy prices are just two areas where organisations can be crippled with extra financial burdens.

Leaders will need to balance costs with the need to both hire new and retain current staff. As recruitment partners, we must help our clients by managing candidate expectations and through finding new and innovative ways to attract staff and encourage the rising numbers of economically inactive people back into the workplace.

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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