Permanent Vacancies Skyrocket: UK Employment Insights for April 2021

Jo Thompson Recruitment contributes to the Report on Jobs, a comprehensive guide on the UK labour market that is drafted by KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), compiled by IHS Markit. The monthly report is built upon survey data from recruitment consultancies and employers, who share insights on the latest and most pressing labour market trends.

National Trends

With the easing of pandemic restrictions, business confidence has boomed with an influx of vacancies. In the latest UK Report on Jobs, the REC, KPMG, and IHS Markit recorded a massive spike in recruitment activity at the start of the second quarter. Permanent vacancies rose at the sharpest rate in 23 years and outpaced growth for temporary placements, while the growth for temp billings expanded to the greatest extent since October 2014.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, rejoiced at the bouncing back of the UK economy. “This month’s numbers for permanent hiring are the best we’ve seen since the survey started in 1997,” Carberry said to IHS Markit. “Temporary hiring has chalked up its ninth straight month of growth, demonstrating again how important temporary agency work is to getting families and businesses back on their feet.”

April marked the second successive month of a rise in permanent placements across all four English regions, skyrocketing at a rate not seen since October 1997. The Midlands noted the steepest increase of permanent staff appointments. Recruiters attributed the rapid expansion of vacancies to increased market confidence as national lockdown measures continued to ease and businesses resumed operations.

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Courtesy of IHS Markit, KPMG, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Recruitment consultancies reported that nearly every monitored sector saw a steep increase in permanent staff vacancies. Leading the demand for permanent vacancies was the IT & Computing sector, followed by Accounting/Financial, Engineering, and Executive/Professional. The Hotel & Catering sector showed its first steep rise in demand for many months, and even outpaced demand for permanent staff in the Nursing/Medical/Care sector, which had dominated rankings since the beginning of the pandemic. Retail was the only sector in April which registered a lower demand for permanent vacancies, though it was only a narrow decline.

In the private sector, demand for permanent staff surpassed that of temporary staff, though both vacancy types rose at a sharp pace over the previous month. Conversely, in the public sector temporary roles showed a faster rate of increase than permanent vacancies.  

In April, temporary billings increased for the ninth month in a row across all four monitored regions, though London noted a mild expansion. Panellists attributed boosted billings to a stronger demand for workers as pandemic restrictions eased and business conditions normalised. 

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Courtesy of IHS Markit, KPMG, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Aside from the Retail sector, which recorded a marginal reduction in vacancies, all other monitored job categories noted increased demand for temporary staff in April. The Blue Collar and Construction sectors saw the highest demand for temporary workers, followed by Engineering, Nursing/Medical/Care, and IT & Computing.

High Demand, Low Supply

Although there was a stark demand for both permanent and temporary roles last month, the availability of candidates fell at the steepest rate since January 2020. Recruitment consultancies suspected that reduced supply was due to an unwillingness to seek new roles because of continued pandemic uncertainty. Brexit, IR35 legislation, and furlough may have also played a role in the thinning pool of candidates.

Permanent staff supply shrank in the North, Midlands, and South of England, though London saw a slight increase. The supply of short-term staff contracted for the second month in a row at the fastest rate in two years, with the North of England experiencing the steepest decrease of candidates. London was the only region to note a solid uptick in temporary staff.

Unsurprisingly, the combination of high demand for candidates and broad skills shortages led to a rise in starting pay for both permanent and temporary roles. Temporary pay growth reached a year-and-a-half high, while starting salary inflation for permanent roles hit a 14-month high. London experienced the steepest rate of inflation out of the four monitored regions.

Insights for the South of England

Permanent staff appointments in the South of England expanded for the second month in a row in April, at the fastest rate of expansion since August 2014. However, this increase was slightly softer than the average uptick of placements across the UK.

The growth of temporary billings accelerated across the South of England to a high not seen since July 2014. This expansion of temporary billings was stronger in the south than at the national level. 

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Courtesy of IHS Markit, KPMG, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Recruiters in the South of England noted a decrease in the availability of permanent staff for the second month running. The regional decline was steeper than the national average and had been linked to a combination of pandemic-related uncertainty and the furlough scheme.

The supply of temporary staff fell at the fastest rate in two-and-a-half years and was significantly quicker than the series average. Recruiters speculated that the contraction of temporary candidates was due to Brexit, IR35 legislation, and workers recalled from furlough. Though there had been a drop in temporary workers nationwide, the South of England saw the steepest decline.

Like other regions, the South of England faced pressure to increase starting salaries for permanent workers; however, the pay raise was not as pronounced as it was at the national level.

Panellists noted that a low supply of temporary candidates and IR35 legislation resulted in increased temp pay throughout the South of England. Not only was the rate of growth the sharpest in two years, but it also exceeded the growth of all other monitored regions.

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Courtesy of IHS Markit, KPMG, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Final Thoughts

The labour market has shown unprecedented resilience, and businesses hit hard by the pandemic have started to show strong signs of recovery. The REC’s Jobs Recovery Tracker evidenced this substantial rebound when it recorded a flurry of hiring activity, with 140,000 new job postings in the week of 5 to 11 April, and another 181,000 new job adverts in the previous week. The comeback of the hospitality sector is especially proof that economic recovery from Covid-19 is well underway. Reaching each stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, combined with the continued success of the vaccine rollout, will undoubtedly lead to increased business confidence in the coming months.

However, while permanent and temporary vacancies have soared, the high demand and low supply of candidates means that businesses will face a fierce competition to acquire the best talent for a role. That is why it is more important than ever to ensure that your employer brand is well-represented in the hiring process, and that hiring practices are inclusive and engaging. Jo Thompson Recruitment specialises in helping organisations secure top-tier talent, combining over twenty years of experience with the latest scientific insights from world-class candidate assessments. We are proud to offer an engaging, candidate-centric experience that digs deep to understand how the values of our candidates and clients align.

Even when the best candidates are in short supply, our extensive network and premier testing ensures that we will find the ideal candidate for your vacancy. Email us at or give us a ring at 0844 2920800 for further details.