How UK employers will be recruiting in Q2 2021

The following article builds upon ManpowerGroup’s new white paper, ‘ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey – Q2 2021’. To read the full extensive deep dive, download below.

Each quarter, ManpowerGroup conducts the ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS), which measures employers’ intentions to increase or decrease the number of employees in their workforces within the next three months. For the Q2 2021 MEOS report, we asked 1,515 employers across the UK one simple question: “How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the next three months as compared to the current quarter?”

This report provides valuable insight into what we can expect from the job market in the next quarter. Unsurprisingly, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt and we’re not expecting a spike in job opportunities across the country in the second quarter of 2021. But the good news is that the recruitment landscape looks optimistic – we’re seeing heightened activity within particular locations and as a direct result of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Here we’re summarising some of the key findings from the Q2 2021 MEOS, as well as sharing market trends we’ve seen from our work with clients’ recruitment activities across the UK.

Large employers optimistic about hiring plans

The survey reports that large organisations (200+ employees) are the most confident about hiring, with steady job gains expected over the next three months; a Net Employment Outlook of +15%. This optimism marks a significant swing compared to the previous quarter, with an improvement of 17 percentage points.

By region, gloomy hiring prospects are anticipated in the East Midlands and the South East, where participants reported an Outlook of –13% and –12%, respectively. Elsewhere in the country, the horizon looks brighter. Employers in five regions report stronger hiring plans, most notably with an increase of 10 percentage points in the North East, compared to the previous quarter.

We also know from Donna Armstrong, Head of Scotland, North East and Yorkshire at Manpower, that many firms in the North East are keen to recruit HR employees in particular, prompted by the UK’s departure from the EU and upcoming changes to Right to Work checks. Lots of organisations we support in that region are highly dependent on EU workers, so additional resource is needed to ensure that these employers are suitably prepared for the changes that will come into effect on 1 July.

Rise in recruitment towards the end of the year

For employers across the country, overall hiring plans look downbeat, with a Net Employment Outlook of –5%, which remains relatively stable in comparison to the previous quarter. But there’s hope for later in 2021, as we’re hearing from employers that demand is expected to rise towards the end of the year, due to the continued vaccination rollout, easing of restrictions, rise in market confidence and the start of economic recovery.

Skills shortages versus availability of talent

A number of sectors have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and some continue to suffer. For the next quarter, the Hotels & Retail sector is forecast as the weakest labour market, with the Net Employment Outlook standing at –8%, closely followed by the Community & Social sector at –6%. This, in turn, impacts talent, as many workers who have been furloughed or made redundant have skills which are not currently in demand.

For employers in other sectors, they’re battling skills shortages. MEOS reports that although large organisations anticipate a rise in recruitment activity in the next quarter, they may struggle to find the right talent that’s needed to fill the gaps created by the pandemic, as well as the skills shortages that existed 12–18 months ago.

Heightened recruitment activity at UK ports

Manpower clients are seeing a boost in hiring at ports across the UK, due to Brexit. Now that additional paperwork has to be completed at borders, it’s taking longer to ship goods into and out of the country. This creates a new opportunity for jobseekers, as employers need extra support to help lighten the load. Administrative and logistics workers are already in high demand across the country, and we expect other opportunities to develop as businesses based in the North look for new ways to export their goods into Europe, without having to travel to the south of the country first.

Overall, although the data reports a –5% Outlook in hiring plans across the country for the next quarter, employers are feeling increasingly optimistic about the recruitment landscape, while they recognise that they’ll need to respond to even more market changes in the next year. And to rise to that challenge, we’re here to help.

ManpowerGroup is the leading global workforce solutions company, helping organisations transform in a fast-changing world of work by sourcing, assessing, developing and managing the talent that enables them to thrive. We know where to find the right talent to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, so get in touch with our experts to see how we can support your workforce needs. You can also find out more about the hiring outlook for the coming quarter by downloading the Q2 2021 MEOS report below.