UK employment figures record high

The UK labour market stats for February have just been released by the ONS, revealing  employment within the UK remain high for another year.  Productivity has decreased by 0.2 per cent in the year to Q4.

Jason Fowler, Vice President, HR Director, UK & Ireland shares his thoughts on what this means for HR personnel:

With more people moving into employment the challenge for HR departments is to make sure they attract and select candidates that are best suited for each role. Recruitment and talent acquisition has always been about people, and in the digital age, this firmly remains the case. But with competition for talent rife, personalised communication is fast becoming at the heart of talent acquisition. Rather than blasting out mass emails and calls without understanding potential candidates, a personalised approach to recruitment ensures we are able to properly foster and develop a relationship with potential candidates through each recruitment touchpoint – from first contact all the way through to when a potential candidate is hired.

“In recent years, technology has become a useful tool for helping talent acquisition professionals maintain this level of engagement throughout the entire recruitment process. Whether this is through personalised on-boarding videos, ATS tools or customised follow-ups, there are many ways technology can support talent acquisition departments with providing a personal level of service.

“After all, in a world where talent acquisition professionals are increasingly needing to think of innovative ways to provide the ‘heightened experience’ that candidates now demand and expect, talent acquisition departments should be using technology as a tool to accelerate their impact.”

Adrienne Gormley, VP of Global Customer Experience & Head of EMEA at Dropbox, commented on the drop of productivity:

The answer to how we can be more productive at work does not lie in simply being more connected and stuffing more into the hours available. We have found ourselves racing around from morning ‘til night, working every minute and attempting to squeeze as much as we can out of a day, we simply cannot just be more productive.

In short – we need to be working smarter, not working more. We need to reduce the time spent on doing ‘work about work’ – this is all the mundane and bureaucratic work that we do to manage our actual work – which is stopping us from being our most productive selves. People are an organisations’ greatest asset and the world’s biggest problems are going to take human ingenuity to solve: better teamwork, better collaboration, and better problem-solving – all of which adds up to the need for a culture which gives employees headspace to do their best work.

Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK comments on the record high of employment:

The UK jobs market remains strong with intensifying competition for top talent contributing to the rising number of people in employment. The low rate of unemployment is further proof of the strengthening of the ‘buyer’s market’. Employees with in-demand skillsets are benefiting from competitive salary negotiations as businesses are paying more than they initially planned to secure their favoured candidate. This war for talent is also reflected in the most recent wage growth figures, which show a 3.3% rise, well above the current level of inflation. This trend is set to continue as employers look to plug a widening skills gap in the race to adapt to an increasingly digitised business landscape, which is already dramatically disrupting traditional business models and roles.

“Our research found that 70 per cent of UK business leaders agree that Brexit will make it harder to attract talent that can support business growth. As the talent dilemma intensifies, it is now more important than ever for businesses to adopt flexible hiring strategies. The employers that will thrive in this fast-paced market are those that can act quickly to identify and attract quality candidates and offer benefits beyond remuneration, like training and flexible working. The companies that get this right will be able to persuade in-demand professionals to join their firm over another, and increase overall productivity levels by providing a collaborative, flexible workplace.

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of leading UK job board, CV-Library:


The national employment rate continues to reach record highs and this is a positive indication that our economy is standing strong in the face of adversity. That said, we cannot ignore the fact that there is a distinct lack of people actively looking for new jobs right now, which is forcing employers to push up their pay packets in a bid to secure the very best workers. In fact, our own data found that average pay in the UK increased by three per cent in October, a staggering 28.9 per cent in November and 10.1 per cent in December 2018. Despite this, application numbers dropped a considerable amount.

Jon Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, commented on the ONS labour market statistics:

Not only is employment at a record high but the increase in jobs is largely driven by full-time roles. This is good news for jobseekers. Today’s official data takes us up until the end of 2018. However, the CIPD’s more recent data suggests that employers expect that both employment and wage growth will stay strong throughout the first quarter of 2019. Nominal wage growth is being driven by the demand for skills. With low inflation expected to continue for most of the year we can expect a real terms pay rise for many in 2019.

For now, most employers remain optimistic about their ability to take on new staff but with Brexit just a matter of weeks away it’s uncertain how the mood will change after March. To prepare for this, it’s vital that employers plan for a number of possible scenarios for their workforce. While there’s optimism around hiring, access to skills continues to be a challenge for employers. With fewer EU nationals working in the UK as the same time last year, it’s vital that the Government recognises the need for a flexible post Brexit migration system to avoid worsening skill and labour shortages.

Tom Handley, Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) director of policy, commented on ONS figures:

Today’s figures once again highlight the resilience of the UK jobs market, with record vacancies and numbers of people in work. However, we cannot this for granted as our JobsOutlook data shows a significant downturn in businesses confidence in the UK economy which is already impacting on future hiring intentions.

There is a real fear, as we are seeing in the UK manufacturing industry, that we will see lower growth and fewer opportunities in the future. The political uncertainty surrounding our future relationship with the EU is only compounding matters and putting off businesses from making future hiring plans and deterring foreign companies from investing in the UK. The sooner employers get some clarity, the better it will be for our jobs market.

On a positive note, the record number of vacancies shows that opportunities are there for job-seekers at present. The challenge in many sectors is finding the right candidates to fills these roles which is why recruitment professionals are playing an increasingly pivotal role in supporting employers to innovate and adapt their hiring strategies to an uncertain and evolving landscape.

Interested in immigration for recruiters? We recommend the Immigration for Recruiters: Right to work in the UK training Day.

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Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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