The UK faces the weakest recovery in employment in Europe over the next few months.
According to a survey by multinational recruitment giant ManpowerGroup, Britain was just one of a handful of European states where more employers said they planned to cut staff than hire extra workers in the first quarter of 2021.
Just 49% of more than 1,300 UK employers surveyed said they expected their hiring to return to pre-pandemic levels within the next year.
The poll surveyed more than 58,000 employers in 43 countries, including 22 in Europe.
Each country was given a net balance score based on employer responses, calculated by subtracting the number planning to cut staff from those planning to expand.
Britain scored -6, the lowest in the EMEA region. Spain, Slovakia, Austria and Switzerland were also in negative territory. France’s score was flat, while Greece, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and Poland all scored at least +5.
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Mark Cahill, managing director of ManpowerGroup UK, said both a second wave of COVID-19 and Brexit were “looming large” over employers’ plans in Britain. He also noted the “deeply concerning” woes of Britain’s high streets, hitting younger workers especially hard in retail and hospitality.
The outlook is especially bleak for jobs in London, where employers reported the weakest hiring intentions on record with a net balance of -15.
“Many of the city’s largest companies stuck to their hiring plans at the start of the first lockdown but are now adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, deferring hiring until the impact of the EU exit and the COVID-19 in the New Year is clearer,” said Cahill.
“There is also a broader move away from the London-centric economy, with more flexible working policies providing a larger pool of candidates from anywhere in the UK.”
But he noted Britain’s scored at least marked a notable improvement on the last quarter’s poll. The UK had scored -12 in the third quarter, the worst outlook since records began in 1992.
Hiring intentions have also surged into positive territory for the first time since COVID-19 hit among finance and business services firms. Cahill added: “Despite a tough year, many financial services firms have been able to adapt quickly to remote working, and this is most evident from the sector’s medium-sized businesses.
“There is also strong demand for business admin, HR, and management roles as more businesses prepare for long-term remote work and for the EU exit.”
Last month the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted a “significant rise” in already-mounting unemployment. The government budget watchdog expects joblessness to hit 2.6 million in the second quarter of next year, with an unemployment rate of 7.5% as the furlough scheme is wound down from March.
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