Monthly Recruitment Insights: Navigating UK’s Tight Labour Market

As we approach the Easter weekend and look back on the first quarter of 2024, it’s been a challenging but ultimately enjoyable few months for us at Citrus Connect Recruitment. The hiring landscape has certainly seen its fair share of ups and downs amid the broader economic conditions. So let’s dive deep into the numbers.

CURRENT STATS

Unemployment rate Latest figures (Office for National Statistics, Labour Market Overview: March 2024

  • The UK employment rate was estimated to be 75.0% for November 2023 to January 2024, 0.1 percentage points down on the previous quarter.  
  • The unemployment rate is now projected to be 4.7% until the end of 2024.  
  • Projection: It is expected to rise around 5.1% in Q4 2026.  

GDP Latest figures  

Job Postings Trends

The number of active job postings in the UK has seen a significant decline compared to a year ago, dropping from 2.5 million in February 2023 to 1,873,386 in February 2024. However, the current level is still higher than pre-pandemic levels, with 1.57 million active postings in February 2020. 

While there was a 5.5% month-on-month decrease with 810,651 new job postings in February 2024, the geographical distribution shows that Yorkshire and the Humber region had a strong presence, with 4 of the top 10 counties for highest job postings.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), this settling of active postings of around 1.8 million midway through Q1 2024 represents a robust hiring environment, though weaker than the past three years’ bull run in the jobs market.

The jobs market has slowed over the past year, reflecting the broader economic conditions we’ve been facing. However, I’m encouraged by the resilience we’re seeing in hiring activity, which has exceeded expectations given the current climate (speaking for the sales sector of course!). 

Two key factors are driving this resilience. Firstly, the UK labour market remains very tight, with labour supply struggling to meet demand. Secondly, we’re seeing rising business confidence indicators that point towards future growth. Despite the slowdown, companies can take heart that there are positive signs on the horizon.

However, I must caution that hiring is likely to remain an uphill challenge as growth picks up pace. Labour scarcity issues will only intensify, making it crucial for companies to partner with professional recruiters who can help them navigate this tight market effectively. Having the right talent strategies will be make-or-break.

On that note, I am deeply concerned about the lack of a comprehensive workforce strategy from the government. Too many politicians are simply avoiding this critical issue that will shape our long-term prosperity. Mere talk of boosting GDP per capita is futile if we don’t address the foundational reforms needed in skills policies, taxation, regulation and infrastructure. These areas have been woefully overlooked by the current Parliament.

Look at the latest ONS figures – the employment rate dipped slightly to 75% in the November to January period. And while unemployment is projected at 4.7% until year-end, it’s expected to rise to around 5.1% by Q4 2026. We can’t afford to be complacent.

The 0.2% GDP growth in January after December’s contraction provides a glimmer of hope. But sustainable economic revival hinges on having the right workforce in place. That’s why I implore our policymakers to stop kicking this issue down the road and prioritise a robust, future-proof workforce strategy. The time for rhetoric is over – we need action.

As we head into the second quarter, the team at Citrus Connect Recruitment is energised and looking forward to supporting businesses with their hiring needs over the coming months. While Q1 had its challenges, we remain optimistic about the resilience of the UK jobs market.

With the days getting longer and spring in the air, I encourage everyone to use this Easter weekend as an opportunity to recharge and rest up. The labour market shows no signs of easing, so we’ll need to be refreshed and ready to hit the ground running for what is sure to be a highly productive Q2.

On behalf of Citrus Connect, I wish all our clients, candidates and partners a relaxing and rejuvenating Easter break. Spend quality time with loved ones, indulge in your favourite traditions, and prepare to tackle the months ahead with renewed vigour.  

We’ll certainly be doing the same as we gear up to expertly guide companies through the hiring challenges on the horizon. With the right strategies and partnerships in place, I’m confident businesses will be well-positioned to secure the talent they need to capitalise on emerging growth opportunities.

Here’s to a restorative Easter weekend! We look forward to collaborating with you in the quarter ahead.

To your continued success

Founder www.citrus-connect.co.uk

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