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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News Analysis: Jobs market shows mixed picture


The state of the labour market appeared mixed this week, with the number of City and retail jobs plummeting amid predictions of increasing numbers of opportunities elsewhere.

According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a huge 30,000 jobs will have been lost in London’s Square Mile by the end of the year – a worrying figure given that where the City goes, the rest of the UK economy tends to follow.
Although the economic think tank had previously predicted that financial services firms would create an additional 2,000 posts in 2011, followed by a further 3,000 in 2012, it now believes that the overall number of jobs will fall to 288,000 – taking employment back to levels not seen since 1998 and well below the 2007 peak of 354,000.
Growth, it said, had been stifled by the impact of the Eurozone debt crisis on market activity and confidence as well as the prospect of tighter financial regulation in the wake of the Vickers Commission report.
But the Cebr also forecast that employment in the City would remain broadly flat during both 2012 and 2013, before the labour pool slowly increased in size again by between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs per annum in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The retail space, meanwhile, appeared to be feeling the effects of a fall in consumer spending. The British Retail ConsortiumBond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor revealed that employment dropped by 0.8% in the third quarter, resulting in 5,780 fewer full-time jobs – the sharpest drop since annual comparisons began in October 2009.
Looking at the month of September alone, there was a huge 23,000 fewer jobs in the sector than during the same month last year, with cuts being made mainly by non-food retailers. Part-time workers also experienced their largest recorded decline in hours worked.
To make matters worse, only 54% of those questioned in the study expected to boost staffing levels in the crucial run-up to Christmas compared with 61% last year. Over a third intended to keep personnel levels static, while 8% said they would make cuts.
A more cheery note
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, said: “Retailers are being battered by the same economic conditions that have led to the highest unemployment rate for 17 years. Seasonal hiring from those parts of retailing that gain significantly from Christmas many provide some respite, but this won’t change the underlying weakness in the retail labour market.”
On a slightly more cheery note, however, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s latest JobsOutlook indicated that, although employer confidence remained fragile, slightly more organisations than last month planned to start hiring again over the next 12 months.
Some 42% of the 600 employers questioned said that they intended to take on more permanent staff over the year ahead – a rise of 1% – although 48% aimed to keep headcount static. While overall confidence levels had fallen slightly on last month, the rate of decline had slowed, suggesting that the picture was improving, REC said.
Hiring prospects over the next three months were somewhat less positive in nature, however. Some 5% fewer organisations (49%) than last month said they intended to take on new personnel over the coming quarter, with a further 41% intimating that the size of their workforce would remain the same.
Despite dire predictions following the introduction of the Agency Worker Regulations, however, the number of employers planning to use temps in both the short- and long-term dropped only slightly to 82%.
Roger Tweedy, the REC’s director of research, said: “The underlying trend this month is one of improvement in employers’ optimism about their future hiring intentions. Though the overall scores have only fluctuated slightly over the past month, the last three months of data show that there are definite signs that confidence is returning.”
Despite criticism in some quarters about the quality of apprenticeship schemes currently on offer, meanwhile, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published provisional figures today indicating that the number of people taking up government-subsidised workplace training had more than doubled for the academic year 2010/11.
Its Statistical First Release document showed that 442,700 people of all ages began a new apprenticeship this academic year compared with 279,700 last year. The top three sectors for providing workplace training were business, administration and law (130,290 people), retail and commercial enterprise (100,630) and health, public services and care (44,150).
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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