Last reviewed 13 April 2021

Supported by vaccine progress, the UK Government’s plan to ease lockdown measures and return to more normal business operations in the months ahead led to a marked improvement in recruitment activity in March.

This is according to the latest KPMG and REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation), UK Report on Jobs survey which shows the sharpest rise in permanent placements for nearly six years.

As a result, there were signs of improving pay trends, with both starting salaries and temps’ wages expanding for the first time in three months.

However, the Report warns, the availability of candidates remained broadly stagnant, largely due to concerns around how secure any new employment would be.

Claire Warnes, Partner and Head of Education, Skills and Productivity at KPMG UK, said: “The UK job market is starting to rebound off the back of the Government’s plan to ease national lockdown measures over the coming months, with the highest rise in permanent placements in six years and a sharp increase in temporary billings. This is good news for businesses, job seekers and the UK economy, but employers are still identifying a big skills gap across sectors including IT, construction and retail, with demand and supply not matching up.”

Data broken down by region showed that permanent placements expanded markedly across all four monitored English areas, led by the Midlands.

In the private sector, permanent vacancies increased at the sharpest rate for 32 months, while growth of short-term positions hit the highest since September 2018. Public sector vacancy growth was subdued in comparison, despite both permanent and temporary roles rising solidly overall.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: “For months, we have been talking about the potential recruiters saw for a recovery in hiring as we got on with vaccinations and the lockdown did its work. Today’s data shows that even during lockdown, our labour market was bouncing back.”

Comment from BrightHR’s CEO Alan Price

This report shows great promise for employers who are currently still in the thick of their pandemic woes.

However, not all employers will be positioned to move quickly into recruiting new staff even as vaccines are rolled out on schedule. Such plans, for a lot of employers, will likely come towards stage four of England’s roadmap out of lockdown when it is hoped that there will no longer be the need for restrictions.