The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released today, reports a national seasonally adjusted net employment outlook of +1%’ showing eight months on from the country’s official emergence from recession, employers remain only mildly optimistic about future hiring prospects.
Workforce structures have changed considerably over the past 18 months, having been impacted first by the recession and then – more recently – by the prevailing ‘jobless recovery’. Consequently, employers are now focussed on reintroducing pre-recession working patterns and making considered and intelligent hiring decisions that enable knowledge-based workforces to emerge. Equipping a business with the knowledge and skills required to meet its goals, but without incurring unnecessary overhead costs from superfluous headcount, is fast becoming a preferred workforce solution.
The Public sector continues to attract considerable speculation and with further austerity measures and the Government’s autumn spending review still looming, a longer-term vision for the sector remains unclear.
Based on responses from more than 2,100 employers across nine sectors and 12 regions of the UK, the Survey reports anticipated hiring intentions for the next three months. For the first time since Q4 2008, the findings show two sectors have returned to double figure hiring intentions; utilities, a consistently strong performing sector, alongside finance & business Services, which dominated the UK’s decline into recession, are the most positive sectors with both reporting favourable hiring intentions of +10%.
In contrast, construction is the weakest at -5%; similar to the retail, hotels & restaurants sector, it has now reported negative hiring prospects for nine consecutive quarters. Hiring intentions within manufacturing, a sector that many have speculated will be pivotal in post-recession Britain, have risen for the sixth consecutive quarter; it reaches +4%, and has been fuelled by the UK’s buoyant exports market, supported by global trade, a weak pound and restocking.
Employers in East Anglia report the most positive hiring prospects at +13%; here, employment prospects have been boosted by increased manufacturing activity, strong performances by hi-tech businesses, and growth in start-up businesses – especially new ventures in professional services and hotels and restaurants.
In contrast, West Midlands’ employers report the least positive hiring intentions for the upcoming quarter at -9%, having first been hit by extensive job cuts within automotive manufacturing and – more recently – by the impact of public sector spending cuts locally. In contrast, the South West shows the greatest quarter-over-quarter improvement, up ten percentage points to reach +11%, while in London, employer hiring confidence has fallen for the third consecutive quarter, to reach -3%.
Mark Cahill, managing director at Manpower UK, said: "The UK business landscape is changing and its future stability is under threat, which carries serious consequences for the labour market.
"The gap in hiring intentions between the strongest and weakest industry sectors and regions is widening, and although unsurprising, it is a concern for the UK’s post-recession growth strategy.
"If the country is to avoid the predicted 8.1% peak in unemployment, there must be significant business growth underpinned by workforces with the skills employers need to drive and support that growth. We know already that there will be challenges; Public sector hiring intentions are expected to plummet, and there is increasing pressure on the private sector to lead the country back to pre-recession growth, which points to a depressed Q1 2011."
"The Government has made tough decisions, and begun to reshape the Public service but for now, the onus is still on Public sector employers to build solid workforce solutions that safeguard frontline services," Cahill continues. "Employers must make smart business decisions and build flexible workforces by utilising transferrable skills and new business practices, in order to deliver output-focused solutions.
"Finding jobseekers with the right skills at the right time can sometimes be difficult, and in the UK there are concerns of a talent shortage. Even now employers are actively looking for motivated and skilled candidates to join their workforces and help drive future growth. At the same times employers must recalibrate their mindsets to consider candidates who may not have all of the specific skills a job requires. They must refine job descriptions and candidate evaluations to identify people with a "teachable fit" based on adjacent skills rather than a traditional fit, with a practical eye towards filling the gaps in their capabilities. Employers must also commit to reskilling and upskilling employees, new hires and potential candidates."
This article was first published on hrmagazine.co.uk