Last reviewed 13 May 2021

While it records an increase in the percentage of firms expecting workforce growth, the Quarterly Recruitment Outlook for the first quarter (Q1) 2021 also shows continued weakness and volatility in the retail, hotels and catering sectors.

Produced by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Outlook is based on a survey of over 5900 businesses from across the UK.

Overall, the new figures show continued weakness in the job market in Q1, with 60% of the businesses surveyed saying they had not attempted to recruit during the quarter.

However, the percentage of firms expecting their workforce to grow in the next three months rose from 19% in Q4 2020 to 27% in Q1, the highest percentage since Q1 2020 and a return to pre-pandemic levels more broadly.

The proportion of firms expecting a decrease in their workforce dropped from 14% to 9%.

Looking at the figures in more detail, only 20% of hotels and catering firms tried to recruit while retail and wholesaling also lagged at 34%. When it came to manufacturers and construction firms, however, 50% and 54% respectively had attempted to recruit in Q1.

BCC’s Head of People Policy, Jane Gratton, said: “These new figures serve as a sharp reminder of how unevenly the jobs impact from Covid-19 has been distributed across different sectors, and the consequences this could have for different generations in the workforce.”

She has called for the Kickstart initiative to be extended and funded well beyond December 2021, together with a more streamlined and efficient process for employers.

“These measures, together with a temporary cut in employer National Insurance contributions, will support job retention and recruitment for young people and others in the labour market,” Ms Gratton argued.