Hiring trends across October suggest that the last quarter of 2022 will be a challenge for recruiters across the UK. Vacancies remain high, while candidate numbers remain low. This isn’t “news”. It’s the same picture we’ve been looking at for the past 20 months or so.
Data from the ONS has recorded some changes though. Its numbers suggest a softening. Across the UK, numbers of vacancies have dropped slightly over recent months but remain high by historical standards. It reports that the current number of open vacancies stands at 1,246,000; a 10% lift on the numbers from this time last year. However, it’s worth noting that the rate of growth is the softest we’ve seen since April 2021.
When we look at candidate numbers, October’s recruitment landscape is awash with “records”. Record levels of unemployment. Long-term sickness and early retirement have created record numbers of those economically inactive.
Of course, records are normally held up as a benchmark of success. However, these records are most certainly not podium-worthy.
The Recruitment Landscape – October.
Here’s a little more detail on how these significant challenges have affected the recruitment landscape across the UK in October.
The total number of vacancies reported across the UK is still above average. However, the rate of expansion dropped slightly in October. October saw the softest rise in demand for vacancies since February last year.
Data from the ONS supports this. Its numbers reveal that the volume of open positions across the UK had declined by 46,000 compared to Q2.
This change was evident across both the permanent and temporary/contract markets, and both were notably slower than across the first half of the year.
The trend remained true across the public and private sectors. Only permanent vacancies in the public sector were higher than the average. Temporary roles in the public sector experienced the weakest upturn in available roles.
The lift in permanent vacancies in the public sector can perhaps be explained by the rise in the cost of living. Notoriously, salaries are lower in public sector roles, and it can be assumed that perhaps workers are leaving these roles in search of higher-paid private sector positions.
Vacancies by sector.
Permanent staff vacancies lifted slightly across all monitored job categories in October. Despite this, every sector reflects the wider trend and reported weaker rates than those of a year ago.
IT and Computing was 6th in the permanent league table rankings. In the temporary rankings, IT and Computing vacancies sat in 8th position, with only construction and professional consultancy behind them.
Demand for skills.
Within the IT and Computing sectors the demand for skills reflects the digital landscape. Data and digital transformation roles are high in demand.
- Data Analysts
- Data Engineers
- IT Infrastructure
- IT engineers
Here at Ignite, we agree with these skill demands. But would add IT support staff and cyber security professionals to this list. Of course, with more advanced and expansive digital infrastructure the need for tech support is greater. We have noticed our clients are requiring more skilled IT support staff of all levels to ensure efficiency, usability, and IT deployment.
October witnessed a fall in permanent placements within the permanent market. Its contraction rate was the keenest we’ve felt in 21 months.
This trend was reported by our recruitment colleagues across the UK, with consultants in the capital reporting London suffered the steepest rate of reduction.
Over the last two years, the temporary market has enjoyed significant rises in billings. In October however, things changed; broadly speaking the temporary market stagnated.
Within the UK, it was a tale of two halves. The Midlands area noted a sharp decline in temporary billings and there was a fresh decline in both London and the North of England. It was only our colleagues in the south of the country that recorded a marked expansion in their temporary billings.
The drop in placements and billings can perhaps be explained by broad economic uncertainty. Costs of living, the lift in energy prices, and rising inflation affect commercial customers as well as domestic ones. Understandably, organisations are being hesitant and pressing pause or scaling back on their hiring plans.
Across the temporary sector, the to-ing and fro-ing around IR35 can’t be helping. Organisations and contractors themselves are unsure about where the legislation is heading. Perhaps this too is a contributing factor to decisions regarding hiring options.
Candidate availability is also weighing upon the placement activity across the UK. The numbers of available staff were down again in October, although the rate of the decline was the softest seen since April 2021.
Overall, the shortage of permanent candidates was more pronounced than contractors or temporary staff. The number of permanent candidates fell again in October continuing the 21-month run.
Anecdotal evidence from across the UK suggests that the marriage of weaker economic conditions, cost of living rises, and general uncertainty contributed to the fall in candidate numbers. On top of this, low unemployment and the economically inactive are further reducing the already restricted candidate pool.
The reported evidence over the last 18 months suggests that the availability of temporary / contract workers has declined. October was no different and continued this trend.
Candidate preferences for more secure permanent roles, skills shortages, and fewer foreign workers are being blamed for the low supply.
Pay and salary.
As organisations compete to attract and secure candidates, October saw a further rise in starting salaries for permanent joiners. Unsurprisingly, the biggest increase was reported in London and the softest in the Midlands.
Candidates are growing increasingly hesitant about leaving the security of established employment and are looking for remuneration reflective of their risk/reward conundrum.
On top of this, we have borne witness to a rise in counter offers. This isn’t a market accommodating the need to replace staff. Established employers are looking to retain their workforce so prospective employers are having to offer generously to combat job security and a pay rise.
The recruitment activity from across the UK suggests employer hesitancy to hire rather than a direct withdrawal from the market. Vacancies are still growing and salaries rising, albeit at a softer rate. We have noted that decision-making timelines are being extended which is not conducive to securing the best candidate. In this market, decisions need to be efficient and swift. It is the speed of your offer that may secure your first-choice candidate over your competitor.
The statistics from ONS reveal that the UK labour force is contracting. In its current state, it can’t meet the needs of the economy. Businesses and the government must prioritise upskilling the workforce across all sectors and support the economically inactive back into work.
We may be biased, but we can’t help but think that the recruitment industry itself is an untapped resource. We are on the front line, speaking to candidates and buying clients every day. Our skills and knowledge can help boost economic recovery when it comes.
For more of our thoughts on why the recruitment industry is critical for the UK economy, read our recent blog.