Report on Jobs: Recruitment activity falls sharply as COVID-19 pandemic hits the UK

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) had a detrimental impact on staff recruitment across the UK in March. The latest KPMG and REC, UK Report On Jobs survey signalled that permanent placements and temp billings both fell at the steepest rates since 2009 as firms cancelled or postponed plans to take on new staff.

Great uncertainty over the outlook underpinned the first reduction in overall vacancies for over a decade. Weaker demand for staff also led to a softening of pay pressures, with both permanent and temporary pay rising at slower rates. 

The availability of staff continued to decline, but at the weakest rate since mid-2013 amid reports of increased redundancies.

The report is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies with data collected between 12-25 March 2020. Cream Personnel Services provides monthly data for this survey.

Key findings
  • Permanent placements and temp billings fall at quickest rates since global financial crisis
  • Renewed drop in staff vacancies
  • Candidate availability falls at slowest rate since June 2013


Commenting on the latest survey results, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said: 

“The coronavirus pandemic has put the labour market on pause. It does mean massive disruption in the short term, but we need to remember that this has to be done in order to protect businesses and save lives.

“What we should be concerned about is how we stop that short-term disruption becoming longer-term economic depression. To do that we need to maintain employment levels as much as possible. Businesses in high-cashflow sectors like recruitment and hospitality need to be able to access government support much more quickly than they currently can, or they will not be able to afford to furlough their workers. This and other measures like government covering statutory sick pay for all firms will help people and firms to stay afloat now, and help the economy bounce back once the crisis is over.”

You can read the full report on the REC website: