Recruitment figures up but “still below pre-Covid levels”, says BCC study

More firms attempted to recruit staff in the past three months compared to Q2 2020, but overall recruitment figures still fall below pre-Covid levels, a major study has revealed.

The finding forms part of the British Chamber of Commerce’s (BCC) new Quarterly Recruitment Outlook, a barometer of the UK labour market.

Carried out in August and September ahead of the second national lockdown, the survey found that over a third (37 per cent) of firms attempted to recruit in Q3 2020 compared to just a quarter (25 per cent) in Q2 2020 – the lowest on record.

However, recruitment has yet to recover to pre-Covid levels (January to March 2020), when 55 per cent of firms attempted to take on new staff.

When broken down by industry, the construction sector was the most active recruiter, rising to 48 per cent in Q3 2020, followed by the transport and distribution sectors (44 per cent).

The hotel and catering industries were the least likely to recruit, however, with just 30 per cent of employers in these sectors looking for new talent.

Across all employers, three in five (62 per cent) expect no change to the size of their workforce in the next quarter, while 19 per cent expect to see their headcount shrink. This is compared to 29 per cent in Q2.

Commenting on the study, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said: “Our results continue to highlight big shifts in the UK labour market as a result of the pandemic. Despite some gains compared to the historic plunge in recruitment in the Spring, we are still a long way from the healthy jobs market we saw prior to the Covid crisis.

“Given the scale of the challenge, it is vital that business and government work together on re-training and re-skilling the UK workforce. Governments across the UK will have to make sustained investments in retraining schemes for people of all ages to help them stay in and progress in the job market. The Kickstart Scheme, where Chambers are already working hard to connect local employers with young people, and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee are two pieces of a very big jigsaw.”

The study comes ahead of the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which will now cover 80 per cent of workers’ salaries for hours not worked, up to a maximum £2,500 per month, until at least March 2021.

The initiative had been due to close in November and be replaced by the Job Support Scheme (JSS).

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