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ONS labour statistics: trade body warns instability lies ahead

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Responding to the latest labour market statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), has warned that instability is on the cards.

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo commented:

“While the latest data from the ONS shows an increase in vacancies from March to May 2022, our own data for June suggests that the country’s recruitment is beginning to slow. According to the data – provided by the global leader in software for the staffing industry, Bullhorn – the number of permanent jobs added dropped -12% month-on-month in June, while contract positions fell -11%, suggesting that the next set of labour statistics will show a contraction. The ONS March to May data appears to support this trend, with the increase in vacancies reported in the latest data lower than the spikes noted in prior months. While a slow-down in hiring following the post-pandemic boom is to be expected, in the current market and with talks of a potential recession in the pipeline, any potential instability is of concern. The UK’s post-Covid economy has been hit with employment strikes, skills shortages, Government uncertainty and a cost-of-living crisis. With controversial changes to rules around using agency workers during strikes voted in and the country facing continued uncertainty alongside Governmental leadership changes, employers and the recruitment sector have been hit hard. Stability is crucial as we continue to navigate such an ambiguous market. As the trade body for the professional recruitment sector, we believe that there is more to be done to make the UK’s employment sector competitive on a global scale.”

Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at APSCo added:

“There are signs that the UK labour market and wider economy are facing increased times of uncertainty and swift action is needed to limit the impact this will have. While we do believe we’ve reached a tipping point with the recruitment spikes we’ve been witnessing, we can’t overlook the fact that the country is still facing a significant shortage of talent, with roles going unfilled due to a lack of resources. The reports from the ONS that regular wages – excluding bonuses – have dropped 3.7% over the three months to May against the rate of consumer price index (CPI) inflation, which mirrors our most recent recruitment trends data, is surprising in such a labour short market and worrying to individuals given the cost-of-living crisis. There is no easy solution to current challenges and pressures but there are steps that can help limit the impact of the upheaval we continue to face. Once a new Prime Minister is in place, key priorities need to be pushed back up the agenda, including strengthening of the labour market. APSCo has spoken to BEIS and DIT to highlight the steps that need to be taken. This includes ensuring global trade discussions maximise the opportunity to agree appropriate services trade deals to allow the UK to efficiently access international labour markets, enable productivity building mutual business visa and work permit arrangements and mutual recognition of professional qualifications and professions. Agreeing standards as part of the Data Reform Bill to secure frictionless, cyber-secure transfer of data between countries will also aid global hiring processes necessary to if we are to source experts with new technical and scientific skills and expertise.

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