Hiring confidence up in the North West despite Brexit uncertainty

Date published: 12 September 2017

Against the backdrop of record employment and ongoing Brexit negotiations, employers in the North West are upbeat about hiring, according to ManpowerGroup, the world’s workforce experts.

The ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey is based on responses from 2,100 UK employers. It asks whether employers intend to hire additional workers or reduce the size of their workforce in the coming quarter. It is the most comprehensive, forward-looking employment survey of its kind and is used as a key economic statistic by both the Bank of England and the UK government.

Jason Greaves, Operations Director for Manpower, said: “Having trailed most of the country last quarter following of the triggering of Article 50 and the surprise General Election, confidence has returned to the North West with an increase in job opportunities, especially in call centres, and process operator and customer service roles.

“The Manchester job market feels particularly energised and employers including Arrow Global, Missguided and Avalon funeral care are creating new roles. While the manufacturing sector has been flat nationally, Wigan has bucked the trend and we have seen some exciting job opportunities in this area.”

“A key challenge for employers however, is that they sometimes miss out on their candidates of choice; people often have several interviews with different employers and eventually make job choices based on who gets back to them first - it is no wonder employers sometimes feel the best candidates have slipped through their fingers.”

Nationally, employers have recorded a one point uptick in optimism with a national Outlook of +6%. A surge in positivity among public sector employers is a key factor in the improved national picture, with hiring intentions in this sector up 4 points to +2%, the biggest rise since 2015.

James Hick, ManpowerGroup Solutions Managing Director: “This is the first time in over a year that public sector hiring plans have been in positive territory. June’s general election outcome was seen in part as a rejection of austerity, and it looks like the public sector is powering on, as hiring ramps up. At the beginning of the year there were 86,000 vacancies in the NHS; the government recently announced that it will train an additional 1500 doctors a year and create 20,000 new mental health posts. However, with the health service so heavily dependent on EU nationals, these hiring targets are going to be extremely difficult to meet. And that’s just the NHS; there are tens of thousands of vacancies in other government departments.”

Hick explains: “The tough reality lurking beneath all these positive indicators is that these hiring intentions may not come to fruition because of difficulties attracting and retaining skilled employees. Take construction, where companies are reporting a stronger pipeline of work than they have for years with an Outlook this quarter of +11%, up six points from last quarter. However, without a pool of skilled workers to actually do the work, buildings will go unbuilt and projects will flounder. There is lots of talk around what we need to do to fix the UK’s ailing housing market at present but politicians’ promises are just hot air without the essential skilled talent needed to deliver these programmes.”

Regionally, confidence in London, where housing and the broader cost of living is the highest, has halved to +4% since last quarter. The East of England forecast tops the charts at +11%, while employers in the South East maintain their confident streak with an Outlook of +10%. Another winner is Northern Ireland following the DUP-negotiated “supply and demand” deal resulting in a cash injection of at least £1 billion. This has already boosted hiring optimism in Northern Ireland, where employers report a surprise jump ahead of the UK national average to +7% this quarter.

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