Economic uncertainty will be the word best associated with the end of 2022. The UK is experiencing its first double-digit inflation in 40 years. Businesses and individuals, unable to predict what’s coming, will be forced to proceed with caution.
For businesses amid rising costs, this may mean having to slow hiring intentions while for individuals it will understandably create an air of hesitancy over moving roles or taking new opportunities.
The end of December is traditionally a slow month in recruitment. Businesses are coming to the end of their hiring budgets, offices close for a couple of weeks, decision makers take annual leave and attentions turn elsewhere.
December closed the year on a similar note as we saw throughout the former 11 months. However, there is a new buzzword emerging from among the data on permanent recruitment; “softening”. Candidate numbers are still in decline, but the rate of decline is ‘softening’. The number of vacancies is still high, but ‘softening’, and average starting salaries are rising, but again, the rate of inflation is ‘softening’.
However, the temporary and contract market remains competitive. There are dips in the numbers here and there, but in the main, the temporary sector and those who work within it continue to experience high demand.
Here is our monthly dive into the findings of our recruitment colleagues across the UK.
The Recruitment Landscape – December 2022.
There’s still solid demand for staff, but December’s feedback indicated a further easing in the rate of growth. In fact, the latest increase in the demand for staff was the softest we’ve seen since the latest period of increase began in February 2021.
Permanent vs. Temporary.
Although still solid and above the average, the increase in demand for permanent staff was the shallowest we’ve experienced in 22 months. The ONS reports that the number of open roles fell by a further 65,000 in the 3 months to October. It is notable that these latest results indicate the first year-on-year decline in vacancies (-2.8%) since Q1 2021.
The temporary market though picked up slightly (even accounting for seasonal variations). Vacancy numbers reached a 3-month high and remained sharp.
Public vs. Private.
The growth in demand for staff was witnessed across both the public and private sectors, although was strongest across the private sector.
The highest demand was for temporary staff in the private sector and the slowest was for permanent staff in the public sector.
Vacancies by sector.
Within IT and Computing, our sector mirrored the broader narrative. Although marginal, permanent IT and Computing vacancies decreased across December. Comparatively, the demand for temporary staff – including IT and Computing – increased across all sectors.
Skills in Demand.
Typically, there are nuances in the demand for skills across permanent and contract hiring sectors. Often, contract IT staff are brought in due to a specific business need – a rare project or an unusual skill set. Across permanent markets, the in-demand skills we see, tend to be more generalised.
However, in December the two lists were identical. Perhaps this indicates the ‘meeting in markets’ trend the vacancy numbers confirm – where permanent demand softens and temporary demand strengthens.
The skills in demand list include:
- Cyber security
- Data Engineers
- Data Scientists
- Infrastructure Analysts
- Software Engineers
The list is indicative of the wider job demand within the tech sector. More and more, organisational demand reflects the need for IT professionals who can offer actionable insights (data and analytics), those who can implement the actions (developers and engineers), and those able to oversee change.
The latter category is missing from this list, and we’d add it! We are getting requirements for Business Change managers and Project Managers across the gamut of tech and digital transformation – those plate spinners who are adept at stakeholder relations and managing change.
Read our recent blog on The Top Tech Jobs of 2023 for more information on this.
Permanent appointments in December fell for the third consecutive month in December. This rate of reduction was the quickest we’ve witnessed since January 2021.
Reported reasons for this drop have been cited as being the result of economic uncertainty, pressures on hiring budgets, cost of living increases, and low candidate supply.
This was true across all 4 monitored regions of the UK. Recruiters in the South of England noted the sharpest decline while London reported the softest.
Our candidates have also exhibited a last-minute hesitancy to move roles. We experienced a few offer declines over December from candidates whose desire to move was superseded by the anxiety to do so in real-time.
Temporary billings from contract workers expanded for the 29th consecutive month in December. These high billings have been explained by the increased demand for temporary workers (in the absence of permanent numbers) and the subsequent need to fill roles quickly. The South of England showed the highest increase in temporary billings while upturns elsewhere were evident but milder.
December showed a sustained but softer fall in candidate numbers. The latest decline in staff numbers was the weakest recorded since March 2021.
The trend continues. Overall, the supply of permanent staff continued to fall at a faster rate than that of temporary workers.
Permanent candidate numbers.
There was a further drop in permanent staff availability. The rate of decline was the slowest we have seen in 21 months. Our colleagues have cited that there has been a continuation of anxiety from candidates regarding moving roles in the current climate, low unemployment rates, and ongoing skills shortages.
In some regions, recruiters have reported increasing numbers of redundancies helping to lift candidate numbers across selected sectors.
It was only London that didn’t report a drop in candidate numbers last month.
Pay and salary.
The average starting salary increased again in December. This extended the current run of rising pay to 22 consecutive months.
However, this rate of inflation was the softest we have seen since April 2021. This trend was true across all regions of the UK.
Temporary day rates also rose, but at a softer pace. These rates of inflation mirrored permanent salaries and were the mildest we have seen since last spring.
Clients have increased their offers due to cost of living rises and maintained candidate shortages.
The ONS and pay.
This was mirrored by the ONS figures. Employee earnings increased by +6.1% in the 3 months to October; up from +6% in the preceding 3 months. These figures are the strongest rates of pay growth we have witnessed in the past 15 years.
The national gap between pay in the private and public sectors persisted. Despite rises in interest in the public sector pay, the disparity is +2.9% vs. +2.4% respectively.
The end of 2022.
As 2022 rolls into 2023 the tech recruitment landscape is looking positive. Hiring intentions are there, with clients indicating that they have a positive outlook for 2023.
Activity levels are high. Despite softenings, vacancies remain high and for candidates, starting rates of pay are still growing. There is also plenty of demand for temporary workers, which are less affected by the long-term confidence of business owners.
The number of temporary workers continued its rise throughout 2022. Data from August – October revealed there are more than 1.6 million temporary workers in place across the UK.
December often experiences a drop off in activity and this year was no exception. Clients push hiring intentions into January, so we are expecting Q1 to begin busy – just as we like it!