Employment was down in the recruitment sector for 2020, according to a professional body.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) said the industry employed 110,000 people in more than 30,000 businesses in 2020, which was slightly lower than the previous year.

The industry’s contribution of almost £36 billion pounds was down by 11.5 percent from the previous year but REC says this was a positive, considering the challenges of last year.

Besides the pandemic and lockdowns, the industry says the unknown effects of Brexit, the shortage of skills and the ‘continuing impact of IR35’ all affected the industry’s ability to perform. 

According to the report, business confidence dropped after the 2019 general election in response to Brexit uncertainty but rose after the government’s roadmap for economic recovery later in 2020.

Skills in the sector vary from shop and care workers to contractors in government.

In 2020, recruiters placed an average of 980,000 temporary workers on assignment every day, according to the report. This is around the same number as 2019. 

Recruiters also placed 450,000 people into new permanent roles over the course of the year – this was around 55 percent fewer than 2019 but understandable considering many businesses were not operating at full speed during the pandemic. 

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: “This report covers one of the most tumultuous periods in the recruitment sector’s history. The value of temporary staffing particularly stands out – almost a million temps on assignment every day helped to keep the country running and the health service staffed through one of the worst crises in living memory. 2021 has been a different beast altogether.”

The report also says that although the number of temporary assignments held up in 2020 ”the prevailing uncertainty over the year meant the average assignment was shorter and lower in value.“ Another throw to the pandemic’s impact on the industry. 

However the report inisists recruitment has bounced back with temporary workers at 35 percent higher than the same period in 2020.

Mr Carberry also predicted a strong recovery in permanent recruitment in particular saying the government will assist employers on skills reform next year, as well as support for the unemployed and immigration rules.

Earlier this year, Mr Carberry gave evidence to the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee telling MPs that the government must overhaul the skills system in order to solve current and future labour shortage issues.









Feyaza Khan has been a journalist for more than 20 years in print and broadcast. Her special interests include neurodiversity in the workplace, tech, diversity, trauma and wellbeing.