Recruiter Hays has said annual earnings are set to beat expectations as the hard-hit jobs market bounces back from the pandemic.
The group said that while fees fell 10% in the first three months of 2021, hiring activity had improved across all its global regions, with March seeing a 4% rise in fees.
Fee declines have steadily pared back from a 34% plunge between April and June last year when the first lockdown hammered the global recruitment market.
It now expects an operating profit of at least £85 million for the year to the end of June – a significant hike on the £61 million forecast in the City.
Shares lifted 2%.
Alistair Cox, chief executive of Hays, said: “Despite our markets remaining impacted by the pandemic, we continued to see improving momentum across the quarter and I am pleased to say group fees were ahead of our expectations.”
The biggest improvement was seen in Germany – its largest market – where third quarter like-for-like fee declines eased back to 5%, helped by rising business confidence and client investments, according to Hays.
UK and Ireland fees fell 14%, which was an improvement on the 27% tumble seen in its first half.
Fees dropped 13% across Australia and New Zealand and were 8% lower across its rest of the world division.
“We are confident we will continue to take further market share as clients and candidates look for our expert recruitment guidance, both during and after Covid,” Mr Cox said.
The group saw like-for-like net fees drop 7% for temporary recruitment, which accounts for nearly two thirds of group fees, and by 13% for permanent positions.
It said it was encouraging that there had been an increase in the length of temporary assignments and hours worked, while permanent hiring activity significantly increased in February and March.
Hays also revealed plans to expand its staff headcount by between 2% to 4% in its fourth quarter, having slashed it by 12% in the previous year.