JobsOutlook: Demand for temporary workers surges as the economic outlook improves

Employers’ intentions to hire temporary agency workers jumped in the three months to March as UK governments started to lift lockdown measures, according to new REC data.

The REC’s latest JobsOutlook survey indicates that hiring intentions for temporary agency workers in both the short (net: +19) and medium (net: +23) term rose to the highest since mid-2018. This shows how key agency work is to helping businesses as they start to re-open and scale up in less certain times.

Employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff in the short term (in the next three months) remained stable at net: +20.

As restrictions began to ease, business confidence in the UK economy improved significantly in the three months to March. The level of confidence rose by 14 percentage points from the previous rolling quarter, although it remained relatively low at net: -36. With the vaccine programme rollout well on the way and businesses gearing up to re-open, the single month number for March surged to net: -8, suggesting this recovery will continue.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“For the past few months, firms have been getting more positive about their prospects, but have been more cagey about the broader economy. This data shows that confidence is spreading more widely now – and it is feeding through to hiring in a much more substantial way. That is great news for investment and jobs. The challenge now is on skills and career pathways, as we help people towards growing sectors in the post-Covid economy. Recruitment firms have a key role to play in helping with this – if government sets skills investment free by reforming the apprenticeship levy.

“It’s no surprise that this report shows the value of agency work – it is a huge benefit to the UK, getting people into work quickly and helping businesses hire in uncertain times. As our Recruitment and Recovery report showed, it’s time to champion the sector. We’re looking to government to support the flexibility and opportunity that agency work provides, while working with us on setting high professional standards, especially in the upcoming Employment Bill.”

Other key figures from the latest JobsOutlook include:

  • Businesses’ confidence in their ability to hire new staff remained stable and in positive territory at net: +14.
  • Employer’s intentions to hire permanent staff in the short term were highest in London (net: +30) and lowest in the devolved nations (net: +12).
  • Almost half of businesses believe a significant reform of employer’s National Insurance (46%) and business rates (44%) would have significant benefit to their operations.