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Job ads underscore hopes for labour market resilience

REC report highlights growing optimism despite challenges.

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Active job postings reached 1,908,641.
Several regions across the UK witnessed significant growth in job postings.
Scotland leading the charge with a 7.0% increase overall.

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In a promising sign for the UK’s economic recovery, job advertisements surged in March 2024, marking a notable increase from the previous month and hinting at a gradual uptick in hiring activity. According to data from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Lightcast Labour Market Tracker, the number of active job postings reached 1,908,641, representing a positive trajectory since the winter months.

The report revealed a 4.2% increase in new job postings compared to February 2024, with a total of 848,004 fresh opportunities entering the market. This growth in hiring activity serves as a leading indicator for the labour market, offering more optimistic outlooks for the upcoming summer season.

Several regions across the UK witnessed significant growth in job postings, with Na h-Eileanan Siar, Causeway Coast and Glens, and West Dunbartonshire leading the pack. Notably, Scotland experienced a rebound in demand for workers, contributing to the overall positive trend.

Despite the overall uptick in job ads, posting levels remain below those of the previous year. However, industry experts remain optimistic about the gradual recovery, emphasising the importance of sustained growth in demand for labour.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of REC, commented on the findings, noting, “Over the past few weeks, we are starting to see some signs of firms gearing up for growth. The first indication of this in the labour market is this rise in job adverts.” Carberry emphasised the need for a focus on long-term growth and urged political parties to prioritise initiatives that support businesses and address concerns regarding skills, infrastructure, and regulation.

Occupations experiencing notable increases in job advertisements included Collector Salespersons and Credit Agents, Air Transport Operatives, and Mining and Quarry Workers and Related Operatives. Conversely, roles such as Childminders, Quality Control and Planning Engineers, and Prison Service Officers saw declines in postings.

Regional analysis highlighted the dominance of Scottish and Northern Irish counties in terms of job posting growth, with Scotland leading the charge with a 7.0% increase overall.

While challenges remain and activity levels are still below those of the previous year, the latest data suggests a growing resilience in the labour market, with signs pointing towards a gradual recovery in the months ahead.

Ken Brotherston, Chief Executive of TALiNT Partners commented, Whilst the latest REC data is encouraging, the results should still be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Any increase in vacancies right now is welcome, but the market is still some way away from being able to be described as buoyant.

It would appear the real trigger for a meaningful and sustained improvement will be a reduction in interest rates and, like it or not, the recent very positive jobs data and consequent inflationary pressure in the US means the UK market may be in the doldrums for a bit longer.

Having said that, there are still many sectors where structural labour shortages persist so, on a positive note, we are still a long way off this being as bad as it has been in the past.

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