Some surprisingly cheerful news on the job market this morning: according to a new report from KPMG and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, there are more companies planning to hire than there are companies planning to cut staff - the first time this has happened since 2008. Presumably that suggests there’s more optimism around about 2010. However, if this doesn’t really ring true for you, you’re not the only one – a separate survey suggests that workers are actually more pessimistic about their job prospects than they were this time last year…
The KPMG/ CIPD quarterly Labour Market Outlook surveyed 800 companies, and found a net positive figure of 5% in the balance of firms expecting to create jobs in Q2; that’s up from -5% in the last quarter, and is the first time the index has been in positive territory for two years. With UK unemployment currently at a 16-year high of 2.5m, that’s just the kind of news the job market needs. And it chimes with a recent survey from HR firm Antal International, which found that 59% of British firms were hiring - more than in France or Germany.
On the flipside, the CIPD itself forecast in December that unemployment would top out at 2.8m in 2010; so there may yet be more pain before the gain. And this confidence among employers seems quite at odds with the mood on the shop floor: Kenexa’s latest employee confidence survey – which measures how people feel about their chances of staying in their jobs or moving to better ones – fell by 8.8% in Q1.
So how can UK employees’ pessimism be reconciled with the more positive overall outlook of employers? Are workers simply being too miserable? Perhaps not. Here’s the rub: while the overall hiring figure is positive in the CIPD’s report, that plus sign is mostly down to the private sector and the south of England. The hiring balance in the public sector is put at -43% - the worst since the survey was first published in 2004. As KPMG’s Alan Downey noted: ‘It is clear that the chill wind of the recession has reached the public sector with a vengeance.’ And it’s only going to get chillier after the election.
What’s more, while London and the South recorded a positive net hiring percentage of 21%, corresponding figures for Scotland and Wales were just as strongly negative at -25% and -23% respectively. Since London had some of the country’s highest unemployment during the recession, peaking at 9.4%, an employment boost would be a much needed correction. But if the government pays your wages, or you live north of the Watford Gap, there still aren’t too many reasons to be cheerful.
In today's bulletin:
Will 10% house price jump boost Gordon Brown in leaders' debate?
Argos vulnerable after 11% dive in profits?
John Vincent: Does the 'bigot' comment matter?
Private sector will prop up the job market, says CIPD
Equal pay in Birmingham - a mixed blessing?