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Recap of the 2018 UK professional jobs market and what to watch out for in 2019

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Looking back on the 2018 jobs market would not be a true reflection unless Brexit was mentioned now would it? Uncertainty around the deal has appeared to create a fear of “last in, first out”, which in turn meant that employees were less willing to change jobs as quickly as they had in previous years.

A candidate shortage was seen across most industries, despite the demand for highly skilled and specialist professionals.  

City AM summed up 2018 and summarises the state of play for 2019.

  • The UK remained a so-called two-speed economy in 2018: London-based financial services firms experienced slow growth due to Brexit-related concerns, while non-financial services companies outside the capital grew at a faster rate.
  • Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham have been particularly successful in positioning themselves as regional tech-hubs, attracting talent that would have historically migrated to London.
  • The technology industry was one of the fastest-growing markets across the whole of the UK in 2018 – growing at three times the rate of the main economy. Given the innovative and highly skilled nature of the industry, there was an ongoing shortage of suitably qualified candidates.
  • Fintech, fast-moving consumer goods, online, and financial services employers were all active in recruiting digital professionals in 2018. Demand was high for specialists in business intelligence, data analytics, security development, architecture, and digital, in both permanent and contract roles.

What to expect in 2019:

  • Demand will increase for interim talent as employers implement data, digital, and transformation projects.
  • Companies will continue to invest in their security, architecture, and data capabilities, driving up salaries in these areas.
  • Employers will particularly struggle to source developers, software architects, customer-relationship management specialists, and data and security professionals for both permanent and interim roles, as demand continues to outstrip supply.
  • Banks and financial services firms took a relatively cautious approach to recruitment, characterised by replacement hiring. The exceptions were compliance, risk, and audit, with these professionals in high demand due to the pressure from regulators.
  • A continued need for industry-trained management accountants at the recently-qualified (£50-£55,000) level in 2019. This is particularly the case for financial planning and analysis roles, where a commercial outlook and hands-on skill set is highly desirable.
  • Traditional finance functions will begin hiring at all levels, as general business growth is likely to continue.
  • We are especially likely to see an increase in interim and temp roles within commerce finance, as companies prepare for Brexit.
  • Hiring throughout the legal sector became increasingly competitive in 2018, leading to firms paying a premium for experienced lawyers across most skill sets. This rise in demand was partly due to a lack of lawyers at the two-to-four-year PQE level, caused by a reduction in the number of trainees being hired a few years ago, and was coupled with an increase in European regulations.
  • This year, we will see an increase in hiring for areas such as disputes, insolvency, employment, and other specialisms which tend to be more counter-cyclical. Private practice will continue to see dropout rates, with lawyers either making the move to in-house positions, or leaving law entirely.
  • It is likely that we will see further salary increases from US firms, with local competitors following suit in order to remain competitive.
  • Technology-aligned companies and VC-backed startups show no signs of slowing down, and the rate at which they continue to attract investors will be a big pull for candidates who are looking to future-proof their careers.
  • Candidates with a hybrid skill set, commercial awareness, and who are IT proficient with strong communication skills will be highly sought after.
  • Within operations, we anticipate a shift towards contract hiring, as the outcome of Brexit will push organisations towards employing a more agile workforce.
  • Professionals with strong systems skills will be in demand, as firms look at robotics and automation to reduce costs.

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