A recent survey of 600 employers by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) revealed that British employers are currently more worried about the state of the economy than at any time since the referendum in 2016; however, the findings of the survey, which was carried out between 2 January and 22 March 2019, also revealed surprising strength within the jobs market and the intention of many employers to hire additional staff.
During the short term, many companies intended to increase their staff and particularly their number of temporary workers, which indicates possible reluctance in making more long-term commitments. Neil Carberry, the chief executive of the REC, suggested that the growing figures regarding hiring temporary workers indicate that many businesses are now turning to agency workers to deal with the unpredictable circumstances surrounding Brexit.
Carberry went on to explain that the growing popularity of temporary workers may be due to employers preferring to wait and see whether permanent hiring is necessary; alternatively, it may represent a need to use additional labour to meet current demand instead of making larger capital investments in productivity-boosting technology. This suggests that unemployment growth may weaken in the future; however, recent hiring activity has added another 222,000 workers to the UK workforce, taking the overall number to a record high of 32.7 million.
Moreover, a greater number of companies were concerned about the prospects for jobs and investment than were optimistic. This is only the second time that this has occurred since the REC began carrying out its surveys in June 2016, when the referendum took place.
Whilst the British economy initially slowed during the run-up to what was supposed to be the original Brexit date – 29 March 2019 – growth elsewhere in the world has also weakened; nevertheless, job creation has continued to thrive, with unemployment rates reaching their lowest point since 1975.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Britain’s unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level in 44 years in March 2019, reaching a low of 3.9 per cent. This is something that the government has attributed to its pro-business policies; furthermore, the number of people in retirement also reached its lowest level in 25 years, whilst weekly earnings continue to rise by 3.4 per cent annually.
With Brexit now postponed until 31 October 2019, these record-breaking figures indicate that only a hard, recession-inducing Brexit looks set to have a significantly negative impact on the employment situation in the UK.
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