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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Recruiters will be a crucial lifeline for jobseekers through a difficult winter

Government and campaigns

This article was originally written as the special feature in the November 2020 edition of Report on Jobs.


Through the summer months we have seen some signs of recovery in the labour market. With the first wave of coronavirus receding, businesses began to open and optimism grew. But with case numbers now growing and lockdowns being imposed, we are likely looking at a difficult winter for jobs. Recruiters will have a vital role to play in keeping the economy going and supporting recovery, placing people in work and helping them transition into roles where there is demand.

Employer confidence had been steadily growing through the summer as health restrictions were eased. The REC’s JobsOutlook survey found that their confidence levels had improved from the record lows of the spring, and that an increasing proportion of employers expected to increase the number of staff they hired in the short term. 

As a consequence, we saw signs that demand had started to grow. Official vacancy numbers from the ONS showed a rise from 343,000 in April-June to 488,000 in July-September. Our latest Jobs Recovery Tracker found that in the week of 5-11 October there were 33% more active job adverts than there were three months earlier.

However, the week of 5-11 October also saw the first week-on-week fall in job adverts since July. With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in many areas and further health restrictions being introduced, it was no surprise to see the hospitality sector hit hard, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The government’s test, track and trace system will be essential to helping the economy recover – its effectiveness is a matter of survival for many businesses.

The Job Retention Scheme was vital during the height of the pandemic, supporting more than nine million jobs so far. While the scheme was extended at the last minute and many businesses will be able to use this, as well as the other government support schemes, to ride out the next few months, we have seen large numbers of companies announce redundancies recently. Unemployment levels will continue to rise through the winter. There is no doubt that the next few months will be challenging.

However, none of us are passive actors in this crisis. The government support schemes will help, but recruitment agencies and agency workers also have a vital role to play. Recruiters are specialists in facilitating career transitions and supporting people to get jobs. We also know that temporary work is critical in any recovery. Businesses turn to temps to help them meet demand while the future looks uncertain. At the same time, it enables people to find work quickly. Past recessions show that temporary work bounces back more quickly – and as the data from Report on Jobs shows, this recession is no different.

One of the labour market’s biggest strengths is its flexibility, and recruiters are key in mobilising the temporary workforce and getting the economy moving again. The sector will be crucial as we head into this difficult winter.