Recruiters across the retail, logistics and hospitality sectors in particular, often refer to Q4 as the “golden quarter”. December and its holiday period often require an abundance of these workers to meet the needs of the UK Christmas preparations.

In recent years, this pattern of high demand has been broken. The Covid 19 hangover and inflationary pressures have taken their toll – so the question this year was would December 2023 be the same, and would the patterns across these 3 key seasonal sectors be reflective of wider UK recruitment?

Looking closely at the data, it would seem that December 2023 did echo the seasonal recruitment activity of recent years. However, broadly speaking there were some green shoots in comparison to the numbers reported in November.

Here is a closer look into the UK recruitment activity across December and the close of Q4.

The recruitment landscape – December 2024.


Over all there was another marginal reduction in the demand for workers across December; vacancies have fallen in 3 of the 4 last months.

Across the permanent market, recruiters reported that vacancies fell for the 4th consecutive month, although it was highlighted that the rate of decline was slight.

Within the temporary sector, however, recruiters witnessed a rise in vacancies. It’s to note though that the rise was only marginal and at the weakest pace in over 3 years.

Public vs. private sector.

A closer look at the vacancy data shows a double divide. Not only were there differences across the market sectors, but there were also some differences within permanent and temporary markets.


Permanent opportunities increased across the public sector (the first rise in 4 months). This increase wasn’t mirrored in the private sector, which saw a downturn in the number of permanent opportunities.


There was an increase in the number of private sector temporary vacancies at the end of 2023, while the number of opportunities for public sector temporary workers contracted.

The ONS.

Official data from the ONS revealed a downward trend in the 3 months to November 2023.   At the start of December, the UK had 949,000 registered vacancies. This number has fallen on a 3-month rolling basis since the middle of 2022.

However, December’s number is the lowest we’ve seen in nearly 2.5years but is still higher than before the pandemic. In February 2020 the UK had 826,000 registered vacancies.

Vacancies by sector.

Only 4 out of the 10 monitored industries registered a greater demand for perm staff in December. This was led by Nursing and the caring sector market.

IT and computing were a sector which registered a drop in the demand for both permanent and temporary staff.

Skills in demand.

Here is a list of the skills that are most in-demand across IT recruitment here in the UK.

  • Cloud Engineers
  • Cyber security professionals
  • Data engineers
  • Developers
  • DevOps Engineers
  • Software architects
  • Software engineers
  • Senior IT Tech leaders

Ignite Digital says…

Migration projects and digital transformation are at the heart of our client’s agendas. This work often involves replacing legacy IT systems with best-in-class products that look set to revolutionise operations and workflow in 2024.

We have had requirements for professionals who can facilitate this work – SMEs and Senior leaders who can lead and facilitate this level of business change.

In contrast, when asked which skills are in abundance, IT recruiters reveal that entry-level IT people are prolific in the market. Perhaps this suggests that organisations are choosing to budget for high salaries and experience over hiring more employees paid at a lower rate.


Albeit at a slower pace than in November, overall placements saw another decline in December.

Once again, the permanent market was adversely affected by hiring freezes amid an uncertain economy which both took a toll on hiring decisions.

The current run of permanent placement decline extends to 15 months and was noted across all 4 English regions with the Midlands noting the sharpest rate of decline.

Within the temporary market, overall billings fell for the 2nd consecutive month. Cost considerations and a decline in company projects were thought to be to blame.

Trends here were regional though. The South and the Midlands noted a decline in billings while London and the North registered a slight increase.

Staff availability.

Overall candidate availability has expanded in each of the last 10 months and December was no exception.

Jobseeker availability grew in both the permanent and temporary markets although the rate of growth softened from November.


Recruiters witnessed a softer rise in permanent candidate numbers in December. However, the growth remained sharp overall and (excluding the pandemic period) among the quickest we’ve seen since 2009.

Redundancy and lower levels of hiring activity were the key drivers and dramatically affected the pool of available workers.

Permanent candidate availability increased across 3 of the 4 main regions, with only the North of England noting a decline.


Once again, an increase in the number of temporary workers was reported in December.  Anecdotal evidence cites Company layoffs and a drop in the number of projects to blame. Although not as significant as November, availability across December was significant and sharp overall.

London saw the fastest increase while the Midlands witnessed the softest.


The ONS reports that total employee earnings increased +7.2% Year on Year in the 3 months to October 2023.  Rates remained consistent across both the private and public sectors (+7.2% and +7.1% respectively).

Any slowdown in pay growth was led by the public sector, where some workers across the NHS and the civil service received 1 off payments in the summer.

Permanent salary.

UK recruiters also noted a sustained rise in the starting salaries of permanent placements.  Although it was quicker than November’s 32-month low, the rate of pay growth was the second softest recorded since March 2021.

Temporary rates.

There was also a further rise in the rates paid to temporary workers, with the rate of pay growth the quickest recorded since August.

The Cost-of-Living increases and skills shortages were believed to have led to the upward pressure on salary.

In sum.

A representative from the REC has commented that the slowdown we’ve been experiencing in the labour market appears to be easing.

Clients are also indicating that hiring is on the agenda and that they have confidence going into 2024. Despite the slow and uncertain economy, recruitment is at the forefront of their plans and there is an ambitious growth strategy for 2024.

For those entering the new year with new jobs, starting salary is competitive. Both annual wages and hourly rates look set to continue on that trajectory as organisations compete for skilled workers at a senior level.

2024 is here and we are looking forward to seeing what Q1 brings.

Are you a job seeker looking for a new tech, digital, or data job in 2024?

Perhaps you are a hiring manager planning to build out your tech team.

Reach out today. We can help.

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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