Jobs Outlook Report – February 2021

It’s not surprising, after a winter of pushing our way through another sharp national lockdown, that the latest REC Report on Jobs kicks off with the headline: ‘National lockdown weighs on recruitment decisions in February’.

However, whilst we cannot argue that it’s been a tough time for the jobs market, and the most recent data echoes this, we also cannot stay silent about the positive glimmers of hope starting to become evident.

The national picture, and regional hope
Nationally, the February Report on Jobs shows some key indicators relating to the difficult times we have faced:

  • There has been another drop in the number of new permanent roles.
  • Whilst temporary roles are continuing to expand, as we expect in times of difficulty and uncertainty, this growth has been notably “modest” in February.
  • Candidate availability continues to grow, but not as sharply.
  • Demand for new hires is relatively stable after falling in January.

This prompted James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, to state that “business confidence remained subdued” and that “the jobs market remains on hold with hiring decisions stalled”.

Interestingly, however, if we dive down into some of the data for different regions, we are seeing something more positive.

The REC Report on Jobs – North of England has seen a “solid rebound” in the number of new permanent jobs and greater demand from employers for workers. There have been good rises in temporary wages. It’s a tale of cautious optimism, much like the rhetoric around the government’s Roadmap out of lockdown.

Our resilient job market
Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, also has a cautiously positive message to give, following the latest data. He said:

“Given the national lockdown that has been in place for the past two months, the labour market has coped remarkably well… We are well-positioned for a recovery as restrictions are lifted.”

The latest information needs to be viewed within the context of the Roadmap lockdown exit plans, as well as help laid out in the Budget, such as the furlough scheme extension and business tax deferrals. This will help the economy to open up and recover more rapidly.

What’s really encouraging is that this time of recovery is being billed as a time to build back a better and improved jobs market, particularly with greater focus on improving inclusivity. With International Women’s Day next week running the theme ‘Choose to Challenge’, and UN warnings that the pandemic has setback gender equality 25 years, now is a critical time for focusing on diversity and inclusion as hiring intentions gain greater confidence in the next few months.

As the February Report on Jobs states, recruiters are incredibly well placed to help businesses recover with an eye on diversity, so that businesses definitely do recover ‘better’. The report puts it clearly: “With so much change already having happened in the labour market and more on the horizon, now is the perfect time to change things for the better, and make the future of work a more inclusive one.”

James Stewart also rightly says “there’s a long way to go to rebuild confidence.” But we’re on the right path and we are well positioned to realise the projected growth the Chancellor predicts for the latter part of 2021 and going into 2022. Perhaps now is the time to raise our glasses to a productive and business healthy 2021, after what we can largely agree to be a difficult start?

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