Hiring optimism wobbles in the East
In the first employment survey to be published since the General Election, employers in the East of England have shown a decline in hiring optimism, according to ManpowerGroup, the world’s workforce experts. The East of England Outlook has fallen for the first time in three quarters, down three points to +5%.
The ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey is based on responses from 2,109 UK employers. It asks whether employers intend to hire additional workers or reduce the size of their workforce in the coming quarter. It is the most comprehensive, forward-looking employment survey of its kind and is used as a key economic statistic by both the Bank of England and the UK government.
Simon Edwards, Operations Director at Manpower, said: “While employer optimism has fallen compared to previous quarters, the level is still in line with the national average. This is fairly encouraging when looked at within the context of the political uncertainty around the General Election and Brexit negotiations.”
“We are seeing a lot of job opportunities in warehouse positions, especially following Amazon’s decision to expand its fulfillment centre in Cambridge. However, it has become increasingly difficult to fill these positions. More and more Eastern European workers who previously held warehouse positions are leaving the county and we have found that there has also been an increase in the number of older, more skilled candidates, looking for work. They tend to be overqualified for the positions on offer and so this skills mismatch has meant that there are more positions available than candidates suitable for the jobs.”
Nationally, companies are demonstrating cautious optimism with an Outlook of +5%, despite a triple whammy of uncertainty over the last few months - a snap election, the triggering of Article 50, and weak economic data for the first half of 2017. Whilst on first glance the election uncertainty might appear unhelpful to employers, ManpowerGroup believes that the shock result could offer hope for businesses who had feared the impact of a hard Brexit on hiring.
James Hick, ManpowerGroup Solutions Managing Director: “You might have expected hiring confidence to have taken a real hit, but employers have been standing firm. However, unquestionably they feared the outcome of a hard Brexit on the jobs market. The election result throws into question the Conservative commitment to slash immigration to the “tens of thousands” and double the levy on non-EU workers to £2,000. The simple truth is that some sectors will stall without skilled workers from overseas, which could result in the UK economy entering a tailspin.”
Hick continues: “People might be surprised to learn that in the last year 80,000 Bulgarians and Romanians entered the UK workforce, while the size of the UK-born workforce did not increase at all (1) – demonstrating just how accustomed we have become to a steady stream of labour from overseas. Slamming the door shut will leave us seriously exposed.”
It is a diverse picture across the regions this quarter. Yorkshire and Humber is top of the regional charts on +11%, its highest level since 2014. London is also riding high, with a five point jump this quarter, to +8%. It’s a mixed picture in the west: the West Midlands is up four points to +9%. But the South West is down three points to +1% (its lowest level since 2014), and the North West is also down three points to +3%. In the east of the country it’s also a pretty uneven picture: as well as the East of England, the North East is also in line with the national average (+5%) whereas the South East is up five points to +9%, but the East Midlands has slipped to +3%, its least optimistic outlook in over six years. Northern Ireland (+4%) and Scotland (+2%) are both below the national average and Wales is at the bottom of the regional table with an Outlook of 0%, the lowest level for the country since 2014.
(1) Office for National Statistics, UK labour market statistical bulletin, May 2017.
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