Skills and Brexit certainty required for more confident business.

Sector reaction to employment figures.

The recruitment industry has responded positively but cautiously to the latest labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). These figures currently show the number of vacancies at 854,000 for December 2018 to February 2019, 3,000 more than for September to November 2018 and 39,000 more than a year earlier.

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9 per cent; it has not been lower since November 1974 to January 1975. There were an estimated 1.34 million unemployed people, 113,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1 per cent, higher than for a year earlier (75.3 per cent) and the highest figure on record. The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.7 per cent, the lowest on record.

“Today’s figures demonstrate the continued strength of the UK labour market, with recruiters helping firms hire the right staff for them to prosper amidst pressing skills shortages,” said Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) chief executive Neil Carberry. “But they need a Brexit deal that helps maintain and enhance this strong performance, rather than gambling with it. Uncertainty is threatening to jeopardise this healthy position, with 4 out of 5 recruiters polled by the REC saying that no-deal would have a negative effect on the jobs market.

“As business confidence drops, the political establishment needs to find a solution that can help protect people’s jobs and livelihoods,” he concluded.

“In spite of a bleak backdrop amidst Brexit uncertainty, employers appear to be bucking the trend and continuing with their hiring efforts,” observed Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library. “What’s more, our own data shows that wages are growing significantly, as many organisations seek to pull out all the stops in order to attract the best workers into their companies.

“However, this positive progress is at risk of stalling if the government cannot put aside their differences and work together to secure an efficient exit from the EU,” he added. “Particularly as we know that many employers are already struggling to recruit the staff they need in order to drive productivity and strong economic growth.”

Finally, Ben Keighley, director of social media recruitment platform SociallyRecruited.com, commented: “The UK labour market is an athlete with very little fat on it at the moment. In fact, it’s never looked in better shape. With household budgets having been squeezed for what seems like an eternity, the pressure on workers is easing as average earnings begin to swell, alongside the highest ever employment figures.

“Yet strong demand for workers persists, making it more likely that earnings will continue to grow this year,” he says. “As the economy marches forward, so too does the number of jobs that need filling, with 39,000 more vacancies available than a year ago. That means employers face very stiff competition to net the talent they want, and the tools in their armoury will continue to be more attractive pay and conditions than those offered by competitors.”

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