Latest ONS figures show that war for talent intensifies

In tough times for employers, one way they can gain a competitive advantage is by increasing pay to attract and retain talent. We bring you a scoop of the stories and comments arising from the publication of the latest employment figures in the UK.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed the employment rate was the joint highest on record at 76.1 per cent, and the rate for women was 72 per cent – the highest on record. Pay rose 3.4 per cent in the three months to April 2019. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 3.8per cent.

According to Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), the big story is the employment of older people:

[The] figures set a new record for the number of people aged over 50 in work, rising above 10.5 million for the first time ever. This is up by over 300 thousand in the last year – accounting for nearly all of the growth in employment overall. This employment growth has been driven in particular by more women in work (which has also set an overall record today). More than one in four older people are now in work, and older people now account for one third of the workforce – up from a quarter a decade ago.

We should celebrate these changes, and the opportunities that an older workforce brings. However we should also recognise some of the challenges – with our research finding that older people often value different things about work, and that employer support is often too narrowly focused. It’s also important to remember that many more older people want to work and still struggle to find it, with more than one in five of the unemployed aged over 50 – a figure that hasn’t changed in the last year.

Tom Hadley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said:

[The] figures show a familiar picture, with the UK labour market stuck in the same holding pattern that we have seen for the past few months. The overall picture remains positive, but with a few warning signs, such as declining vacancies.

Our jobs market continues to demonstrate how robust it is, and continues to provide good work for more people than ever before with employment at a joint-record high and economic inactivity close to a record low.

However, the fact that vacancy numbers are dropping is reflected in the REC’s Report on Jobs data, which shows a slight decline in permanent placements. At the same time, employers and recruiters are still struggling to find the staff to fill empty roles in sectors as diverse as healthcare, technology and logistics. Businesses are increasingly having to review current hiring procedures, as making the right hire at the right time can be crucial to maximising growth and productivity.

Meanwhile Ben Frost, Solution Architect EMEA at recruitment specialists Korn Ferry, offered his thoughts on how employers can compete for talent in this competitive jobs market:

Today’s CIPD employment stats have once again confirmed strong employment growth up and down the country, which is great news for companies and employees. The challenge, however, remains in competing for the right staff with the right skills.

Not all businesses are in the financial position to offer monetary rewards to attract and retain top talent. However, for the most part employees’ expectations have begun to shift and so money is no longer necessarily the most effective way of rewarding staff or appealing to new talent.

Companies need to look at benefits beyond financial incentives in order to attract the best talent. From flexible working schemes for a better work-life balance, to robust career development programmes and creative working environments, employers need to communicate the benefits associated with their brand.

With this change in focus, organisations are able to attract and retain the best talent and so combat the current skills shortage that is affecting many industries.

Finally Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, highlighted the intensification of the war for talent:

The fact that more people are in full-time work is certainly positive, especially as the employment rate for women is at its highest in nearly fifty years. At the same time, pay is up year-on-year and while this is good news for working professionals, the picture is less rosy for businesses. After all, we cannot ignore the fact that businesses are struggling to entice potential candidates out of their roles, in turn having no choice but to offer higher pay in order to remain competitive.

In terms of the number of vacancies dropping between March and May, it’s not overly unusual for us to have seen a dip in vacancies quarter-on-quarter, given that the first two months of the year are usually some of the busiest for hiring. However, we could also attribute it to the fact that Brexit uncertainty has left businesses with no choice but to hold off on their hiring efforts until the UK receives more clarity on our future in the EU.

Interested in attracting talent? We recommend the Recruitment and Retention Conference 2019.









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!

Aphrodite has had a variety of high profile industry clients as a freelancer, and previously worked for a number of years as an Editor and Journalist for

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