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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

UK recruitment industry status report 2021/22

Recruitment industry status report

Welcome to the REC’s Recruitment Industry Status Report over 2021-2022. Every year we survey recruitment businesses across the UK to bring you the latest figures for the value and size of the staffing industry and the number of people we place into work.

Looking back on 2021, it can be difficult to recall the worries many of us faced at the start of that year. Naturally, there was concern for our loved ones and communities as the pandemic's second wave ripped through. But for many of us, this was coupled with a very real fear about what lay ahead for our businesses.

Across the recruitment industry, we did the best we could in dealing with the twists and turns of 2020. My particular niche of executive search experienced mixed results that year. For obvious reasons, some clients retrenched, while others went hard at sourcing the senior c-suite appointment to bring the steady hand and experience the company needed to get them through the pandemic. As 2021 began, clients and candidates took in their stride the concept of “living with covid”. They adapted and embraced new ways of working. Meanwhile, the recruitment industry demonstrated just how flexible and innovative it is, and how we are key to the economy, our clients and candidates.

We reported in last year's Recruitment Industry Status Report that the entire recruitment industry contracted by 11.5% in 2020. As 2021 started, we were gripped by the second wave of Covid and more lockdowns - and it wasn't to be the last time the pandemic struck that year, unfortunately.

So it is a testament to the resilience, perseverance and downright hard work of each and every one of us in the recruitment industry family, that in 2021, the industry not only made up for the losses of 2020 but bounced back so strongly.

Despite the odds being stacked against us, we turned 2021 into a success. And here we are again, at another crossroads for the economy. Inflation, energy prices and political turmoil are biting hard. But looking at the figures in this report for 2021 and the early data for 2022, I am left with a sense of optimism. We hit hard times in 2020 and early 2021, but we bounced back. We will do the same again as 2023 approaches.

This is because clients are looking for the professional services we provide, more than ever. We are here to support their strategic workforce planning and help them build comprehensive retention and recruitment plans. Our insights provide clients with a safe space to ask for advice on critical developments, like EDI and becoming carbon neutral.

Candidates too look to us: for advice and guidance on their next assignment or career move but equally, they want care, compassion and excellent customer service, plus the attention to higher standards that comes with being a member of the REC.

I'm proud to be part of this resilient, innovative industry and I know that whatever lies ahead, good quality recruiters are needed and valued more than ever.

Best wishes to you and your business for a fruitful and positive year ahead.

Sarah Thewlis, Chair, Recruitment & Employment Confederation

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