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Recruiter Hays sees 'modest' improvement in jobs market

·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
Commuters at Clapham Junction station as train services increased as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, in London, Monday May 18, 2020.Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last Sunday that people could return to work if they could not work from home. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
Commuters at Clapham Junction station as train services increased as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, in London, Monday May 18, 2020. Photo: Yui Mok/PA via AP

Global recruitment agency Hays (HAS.L) is seeing a “modest” improvement in the jobs market and is hopeful it can get back to growing its business.

Hays said in its full-year results on Thursday that its fees were stable in May and June, after sharp falls in the proceeding month. The company, which also provides HR services, said it was seeing a “modest” improvement in recruitment for permanent roles. Its temp business is stable.

“Some of this may be a 'catch-up', with locations hit the hardest by lockdowns seeing a stronger bounce (e.g. UK),” a team of analysts at UBS led by Rory McKenzie wrote in a note on Thursday.

“However, the risk of second waves/lockdowns remains.”

It came as Hays revealed the full financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business. Fees in the 12 months to 30 June 2020 fell by 12% to £996.2m and pre-tax profit slumped 63% to £86.3m.

The annual performance masked the precipitous drop in revenue as the pandemic hit in March. Hays said the decline in fees seen during the pandemic was on a similar scale to the 2008 financial crisis but happened far faster. The collapse in fees during the financial crisis took eight months, while the decline during the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in just six weeks.

READ MORE: Almost half of finance workers consider new job in wake of COVID

“The pandemic severely impacted all our markets globally,” chief executive Alistair Cox said in a statement.

“Facing conditions far harsher than I have known, our business rose to the challenge and I am immensely proud of the commitment and innovation of all our people.”

Hays was forced to lay off and furlough hundreds of staff in response to the pandemic. 18% of staff were on government work support schemes at the end of June, while headcount was cut by 9% during the year. Hays said it expected staffing levels to decrease again in the coming year. The company has over 10,000 employees across 33 countries.

In April, the company raised £200m through a share sale to help bolster its balance sheet and weather the downturn. Cox said Hays now had its “strongest ever balance sheet” and was ready to “return to growth, while keeping a tight control on costs”.

Hays said it plans to invest around £15m next year in green shoots growth projects in markets like Australia, the US, the UK, and France.

Shares rose 1.2%.

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