COVID-19 pandemic leads to record fall in hiring activity in April

Permanent placements decline at record rates

Renewed falls in both starting salaries and temp pay Demand for staff deteriorates at fastest rate in series history

Permanent staff appointments fall at record pace

The number of people placed into permanent job roles in the South of England fell for the second month running in April. Furthermore, the rate of decline gathered pace since March and was the most severe in the survey’s more than 22-year history. Recruiters in the region frequently cited that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and associated restrictive measures had led clients to implement hiring freezes. Across the UK as a whole, permanent placements also declined at an unprecedented rate.

Demand for staff across the South of England deteriorated substantially at the start of the second quarter.

Permanent vacancies fell sharply and at the steepest rate since the survey began in October 1997. A record drop in demand for permanent staff was also seen at the UK level. Temporary vacancies in the South of England likewise fell at an unprecedented rate. Notably, the reduction in short-term positions was slightly faster than seen across the UK as a whole.

Availability of permanent candidates rises for first time since June 2013

After having fallen in each of the past 81 months, the supply of permanent staff in the South of England increased during April. Moreover, the rate of growth was the sharpest seen since October 2009. The increase was attributed by panel members to company layoffs and decisions to furlough staff due to the pandemic. A renewed upturn in permanent worker supply was also seen at the UK level, with the rate of expansion similar to that seen for the South of England and marked.

Startinng salaries fall for the first time since June 2012

After rising only slightly in March, latest survey data signalled an outright decline in average starting salaries for permanent workers in April. Not only was it the first time that permanent starters’ salaries had fallen since June 2012, but the rate of reduction was the quickest in 11 years. Anecdotal evidence indicated that the coronavirus pandemic led clients to cut salary offers. Starting salaries also decreased at a historically sharp rate across the UK as a whole.

As significant as April’s results are they are hardly surprising given the current circumstances. Like the rest of the UK, COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the South of England jobs market, with the economic uncertainty it is causing weighing heavily on the region’s firms.
“All businesses in the South can do is remain resilient and adapt as necessary to survive this pandemic, as we await the Government’s forthcoming announcement on easing current restrictions so confidence in the jobs market can start to rebuild

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About

Simon Bean is managing director of the Recruitment Connection and has been recruiting since 1985. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP).