Job availability falls at fastest rate to hit 12-year low

Demand for staff has slumped dramatically in the past month, hitting a 12 year low.

The Report on Jobs from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and professional services firm KPMG found permanent staff vacancies fell to a new low of 24.7 (in an index where 50 means no change), down from 29.2 in December, decreasing at the fastest pace since the survey was first published in 1997.

Temporary vacancies continued to fall, extending the current period of decline to seven months, hitting 32.7, down from 34.5 in December – again, the fastest fall since the index began.

The report also found that the number of people placed in permanent jobs had decreased for the 10th consecutive month. Temporary placements were also down.

Meanwhile, average salaries for new recruits in permanent and temporary jobs continued to fall, with the surge in candidate availability in recent months placing negotiating power firmly in the hands of the employers.

The nursing, medical and care sector remained the only sectors to avoid the reduction in vacancies.

Mike Stevens, partner and head of business services at KPMG said: “Yet another month of desperate news on the UK employment front, although the rate of decline in permanent placements has slowed. Most employers are now looking at ways to cut cost to mitigate falling sales revenues. High on the list of costs, for what has largely become a service economy, is wages.”

He said most employers were considering redundancy plans.

“The best employers are already looking at more imaginative ideas, for example by inviting staff to volunteer to reduce pay in return for a shorter working week during the recession,” he added.

The Report on Jobs draws on survey data provided by recruitment consultancies and employers to a monthly indication of labour market trends.

Earlier this year KPMG said it was urging staff to take sabbaticals on one-third of their pay to save their jobs.

At its peak in 1997, the KPMG/REC index for permanent vacancies was more than 70.

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