Record fall in job vacancies

By staff

The demand for staff in the UK has fallen at its fastest rate since 1997, a new survey has found.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG Report on Jobs, published today, highlights a continuing downturn in employment opportunities at the beginning of 2009.

The survey found that lower candidate appointments reflected weak demand for staff, with overall vacancy levels falling for an eight consecutive month, and at the fastest pace since October 1997.

Data from the analysis of recruitment consultancies signaled further marked reductions in permanent and temporary staff employment during January.

Average salaries for successful candidates placed in permanent jobs also fell for a fourth successive month, with the rate of decline again the fastest since data collection started in 1997. Hourly pay rates for temporary staff also fell sharply.

Nursing and medical care were in fact the only sectors to avoid a reduction in vacancies over the last month, the survey found.

Commenting on the results, Kevin Green, chief executive of the REC, said: “These figures continue to cause real concern and confirm that the labour market is continuing to contract, although the decline in permanent placements is less marked than in the previous month.

“The government needs to breathe life into the jobs market, for example by harnessing the contribution of temporary work as a valuable mechanism for keeping people in employment.

“This means extending the employer incentives announced at last month’s Jobs Summit to take on and train temporary staff. It is also important that any steps to boost the jobs market are not undermined by potentially damaging legislation.”

In particular, Mr Green added, the government’s plans to introduce a tax on some temporary work from April “must be delayed if we are to avoid even more jobs being lost at this critical time”.