A new report indicates that there was a marginal rise in permanent vacancies at the end of 2020, marking the first time this has occurred since September 2020. 

KPMG and REC’s report ‘UK Report on Jobs’ highlights a slight recovery in the job market, with permanent vacancies rising at the end of 2020. This effect has been attributed to the news about the COVID-19 vaccines in addition to increased market activity.

Furthermore, the research also highlighted that temporary job placements had also risen in number, increasing at the sharpest rate in over two years. This news follows the trends of previous REC reports which found that, during the pandemic, companies tended to opt for making temporary hires over permanent ones as a result of market uncertainty.

In addition to this, pay for both temporary and permanent staff also increased for the first time since March 2020. However, this was only a slight rise in pay when compared to previous figures.

The end of 2020 also saw a rise in redundancies which contributed to the overall increase in the availability of both permanent and short-term staff in December.

Despite this slow recovery for most of the UK, some areas have continued to see a further decline in the number of jobs available. While the South of England, the Midlands and the North of England all registered marked increases in temporary vacancies, London was the only monitored English region to see a fall, which extended the current period of decline to 12 months.

This proved to also be the case when analysing the data linked to different sectors. The private sector made a slight recovery with an increase in demand for both permanent and temporary staff. Contrastingly, demand fell for both permanent and temporary staff in the public sector.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

The underlying strength of the British economy shone through in the December jobs figures. The biggest expansion in temporary recruitment since October 2018 shows how important the flexible jobs market is to that performance. Growing permanent placements and starting pay also emphasised the resilience of our economy.

The important thing now is to maintain as much of that momentum as possible through the new lockdown. With business cashflows under renewed pressure, helping employers protect and create jobs is essential. We need a long-term plan to support businesses across the supply chain – not just those required to close. This should include wider-spread reductions on business rates, support on VAT repayments and support for self-employed business owners previously cut out of schemes. We need big ticket items now, like a reduction in the cost of furlough and employers National Insurance to help firms retain and hire staff in the coming months, alongside delivery of the vaccine.

Regions have been recovering at different speeds and London continues to lag behind. London is home to some of the most deprived boroughs in the country, so this is particularly worrying. It underlines the urgency of action needed to help businesses retain workers and get the vaccine delivered.

James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said:

The emergence of a vaccine did bring more confidence to the jobs market in December with a small increase in permanent appointments. Temporary billings were also sharply up across the UK although London was a notable exception.

However, we will have to see what January brings with a new national lockdown sure to fuel economic uncertainty, alongside preparing and adapting to the new relationship with the EU.

But with the UK leading the way on the vaccine roll out and continued government financial support, there is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel for both business and jobseekers.

*The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies.