Covid-19 job losses sees record numbers in UK seeking temporary work

Richard Partington Economics correspondent
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Chih-Chung Johnny Chang/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Chih-Chung Johnny Chang/Alamy

Record numbers of people in Britain are looking for temporary work as job losses across the country mount, according to recruitment firms that have been flooded with CVs.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the accountancy firm KPMG said the number of people signing up to find temporary work rose in July at the fastest pace since records began in 1997.

The lobby group for the recruitment industry said the record increase in available candidates was largely driven by redundancies stemming from the pandemic, as rising numbers of companies across the country cut jobs.

For permanent staff, availability grew at the second fastest rate on record – with growth in the number of people looking for work in July only surpassed to November 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis.

The temporary staff availability index compiled by the REC surged to 85, up from 48.5 in February before the pandemic struck. A figure above 50 indicates a rise in available workers from the previous month.

It comes as employers across Britain are inundated with job applications, including a restaurant in Manchester receiving more than 1,000 applicants for a receptionist role and an All Bar One in Liverpool receiving more than 500 CVs for a single bar job.

Unemployment is beginning to climb as the government scales back its furlough wage subsidy scheme, while new job vacancies have collapsed during the pandemic as the British economy slides into the deepest recession for 300 years. According to the Institute for Employment Studies, as many as eight people are now claiming unemployment benefits for every job opening, compared to just 1.5 people per job in March before the pandemic struck.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said: “There are far fewer vacancies in the market than before March, and more people looking for jobs. Recruiters will be key to helping people build confidence and find work – but the reality is that government needs to help kickstart hiring.”

Despite the gloomy outlook, the REC and KPMG said there were some encouraging signs from the jobs market in July, as the rate of decline in employment slowed.

James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG, said unemployment was however likely to rise further as the furlough scheme is wound down: “We are still a long way from being out of the woods, with hiring plans remaining on ice and the uncertain outlook still weighing heavily on business’ recruitment decisions.”