Businesses are ready to start hiring, survey shows

Companies are preparing to swell the ranks of their workforces for the first time in a year, according to a survey that suggests corporate confidence about an economic recovery and the end of the pandemic is on the rise.

A poll of over 2,000 employers found that more planned to recruit staff over the coming weeks than were intending to cut jobs, reversing the trend of the previous quarter.

The survey, by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Adecco, the recruitment firm, also found that business confidence about hiring was at its strongest level for 12 months, implying that the surge in unemployment may be near its peak.

Companies in the healthcare, finance and insurance, education and IT sectors were showing the most positive signs of being prepared to take on new staff, it found, while those in the leisure sector were still reeling from the effects of lockdown restrictions.

With Rishi Sunak due to publish his budget in less than a fortnight’s time, the CIPD urged the chancellor to extend the jobs furlough scheme for a second time or risk a fresh rise in redundancies later in the year.

According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate hit 5 per cent between September and November, its highest level in more than four years. More than 200,000 people are estimated to have lost their jobs over the period, with redundancies running at their highest on record.

The next official figures on employment are due this week and economists think that another 30,000 people lost their jobs in December, with the rate up to 5.1 per cent. Some forecasters are predicting that unemployment will hit 7.5 per cent by the summer, particularly if the government does not extend the furlough jobs protection scheme, which is due to finish at the end of April.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said: “These are the first signs of positive employment prospects that we’ve seen in a year. Our findings suggest unemployment may be close to peak and may even undershoot official forecasts.”

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