Once again, the recruitment data from May indicates that it’s a great time to be a job seeker.

Another significant rise in vacancies and further lifts in starting salary equates to a buoyant landscape for candidates.

However, the job market is not looking so rosy for organisations looking to hire. While unemployment numbers are at a record low, so too are the numbers of ‘economically inactive’ people. Over 8.8 million people in the UK are neither working nor looking for a job. That’s 460,000 more than was recorded pre-pandemic, including 200,000 more individuals who have been placed on long-term sick.

Interestingly, Q1 of 2022 has witnessed huge labour market turnover.  Near record numbers of resignations were received by employers as workers started taking the opportunity to change jobs amid steep cost of living rises. Driven by the need for higher salaries, people are seeking better paid positions.

These circumstances all come together to create the ‘Perfect Storm’ for recruitment partners, HR professionals, and hiring managers across the UK.

Here is how May panned out across the recruitment landscape.

The hiring data. May 2022.


The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveals that the number of vacant roles has hit record highs.  There are currently 1,295,000 vacancies in the UK. This is up from 1,288,000 in the three months to March 2022.

Although vacancies have risen consecutively across the last 16 months, May saw the softest rate of growth since February.

The ONS confirms that YoY, vacancies have softened, easing from +105.8% over Q1 to +94.7%.  Despite this though, recruitment professionals have witnessed a demand for staff that’s still way above average.

Perm vs Temp.

As has been the case for the past 16 months, the demand for permanent staff increased at a quicker rate than for temporary workers; the latter rose at the softest rate for 5 months.

When considering sector variations, the demand in the private sector outpaced that within the public sector during May.  The most significant demand for staff was for permanent staff in the private sector while the softest was for temporary workers within the public sector.

For some time, the demand for permanent IT and Computing staff topped the league tables. April saw that change, however, but once again, recruitment data places permanent IT and Computing professionals as those most in demand.

an african american candidate is being interviewed by two young professional women

The Ignite Digital experience.

In this area, we concur with our colleagues. Our pipeline is looking chunky, to say the least. We are talking in-depth with both new clients and existing ones about the roles they need to fill.

Digital transformation is at the heart of this need. All those we are speaking to are either embarking on new phases of ambition or growing their platform to meet demand.

Permanent placements are still a preference with our clients, but we have placed a significant number of contractors over May. Most of these were intentional decisions, however, some were a direct result of fast growth and the need for a ready talent solution.

In-demand skills.

Digital transformation and business insight are both driving the skills required amid the IT and Computing recruitment sector.

The most in-demand skills include

  • Analysts
  • Data professionals
  • Developers
  • Software engineers

These are job requirements we can endorse at Ignite Digital. Over the last month, we have received record numbers of requests for Business Analyst roles of every description. On top of this, we are noticing businesses requiring the skills of those who are transformation experts; business change managers, for example, are a top need for our clients.

Organisations are undergoing mass data migration to the cloud as part of internal digital transformation efforts.  Cloud professionals are a top hiring priority, as are data experts helping to give insight into business performance.

Placements and hiring.

May saw a continued strong lift in recruitment activity. However, permanent staff appointments grew at the softest rate since March 2021.

Across the board, candidate shortages were blamed for this slowdown. Unsurprisingly, London noticed the strongest increase in permanent placements, while the south of England reported the softest increase.

Candidate availability.

Unsurprisingly, candidate shortages were consistently noted over May across both permanent and temporary sectors.  40% of those recruiters taking part in the survey noticed a drop in permanent staff supply while only 7% saw an improvement. Colleagues attributed the lack of staff to the same triad of factors; a lack of foreign workers, hesitancy over the economic outlook, and global political instability.

However, May witnessed the softest decline in staff availability for 4 months. In fact the latest deterioration in staff supply was the weakest since the year began.


Starting salaries remain close to record highs. Permanent salaries rose at a record pace over May and were among the quickest since October 1997.

56% of recruiters recorded higher starting salaries while less than 2% saw a fall.

The high pay was once again attributed to a greater demand for scarce and skilled workers amid a high-demand environment. London noted the quickest rate of inflation while the north of England witnessed the softest.

Data from the ONS reveal that salaries (including bonuses) rose 7% over Q1 year on year. Nationally, this is the strongest rate of growth since the 3 months to April in 2021.

The official data suggests that this steeper rise in earnings has been driven by the private sector whose rate of growth stands at +8.2% (up from 6.5%). Predictably, the earnings growth among workers within the public sector was the weakest in nearly 5 years.


In conclusion, May has been a month like many others of late. It’s likely that we won’t see much change until the government takes an active role in encouraging those who are currently ‘economically inactive’ back into work.

Initiatives around rewarding working families are required as is the proactive collaboration with businesses; offering financial incentives such as tax breaks as a reward for flexible working packages, for example.

Businesses may like to look to recruitment professionals to help them hire and manage their workforce planning. A skilled talent partner can add significant value to a business’s efforts in making the right hire with the right skills at the right time.

Not only can we help with identifying the right candidate, but we are able to help leaders create a salary and package that is candidate friendly and competitive.

Businesses may need to get more creative in their approach to recruitment to beat the current hiring landscape.  Developing junior hires, upskilling the team in place, identifying untapped talent pools, and looking to the contract market are all options open to companies amid an unfriendly labour market.

Are you looking to grow your tech, digital or data team? We can help. Reach out to Ignite Digital today.

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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