According to the REC, businesses’ confidence in their ability to hire new staff has risen in the three months leading up to February – the last month on record. 

New research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has shown that employer confidence in hiring has significantly improved in the month of February.

In comparison to data for the three months leading up to January, hiring confidence has increased by 6 percentage points, rising to +16.

In particular, this was attributed to the roadmap outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson which documents the steps which will be taken to ease lockdown restrictions. Once this was announced in February, the hiring confidence peaked at +29.

Additionally, many employers expressed interest in hiring staff over the next 4-12 months. Particularly, firms were interested in hiring permanent staff with this rising to +30. However, this also rose to +15 for agency workers, showing hiring prospects could be seeing an improvement over the coming year.

Despite this, employers’ level of confidence in the economy is still low, with many believing that economic conditions are worsening. As such, during the period of December – February, this was placed at -50 although this was still three percentage points higher than the previous rolling quarter.

As such, this was reflected in the short-term hiring numbers. Hiring intentions for temporary agency workers rose by eight points to +14, indicating that many companies will be looking to temporary staff to support them while the economic outlook is still uncertain.

Meanwhile, employers’ intentions to hire permanent staff in the short term fell by five points, but remained high at +19.

An industry which was particularly hit was construction – with many employers of both permanent and agency workers voicing concern about shortages of workers during this quarter. Due to this, demand remained high within this sector.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

Recruiters report that this latest lockdown has been much less damaging than many feared back in January. The relative health of the economy and the jobs market is now being reported by business surveys, official figures and our own data. Today’s figures show that hiring companies are confident about bringing people into their businesses now, and that has to be good news for all of us.

There is still widespread pessimism about the wider economy, but that may be because respondents fear for sectors that have been shut down during lockdown. This caution is also reflected in employers leaning more on temporary work in uncertain times. As always, temping remains a great way for people to find work quickly and for firms to hire when the outlook is uncertain.


*JobsOutlook is produced by the REC in partnership with Savanta ComRes. Savanta ComRes interviewed 600 UK employers involved in hiring by telephone between 1 December 2020 and 2 March 2021.