BCC survey shows businesses increased hiring of workers in second quarter of 2019
Businesses increased their hiring of workers in the three months to June despite rising uncertainty over Brexit and the economy, a survey shows.
The British Chambers of Commerce found 60% of UK firms tried to recruit new staff in the second quarter of 2019 compared with 53% in the first quarter.
The survey of more than 6,500 businesses suggests the job market has remained strong since the most recent reporting period for official figures. Employment rose slightly in the three months to May and the unemployment rate remained low, the Office for National Statistics said this month.
Employment has been resilient despite Brexit uncertainty and the slowing economy. Recent surveys have shown business optimism declining, retail sales falling and factory order books shrinking.
Economists, including the Bank of England rate setter Gertjan Vlieghe, have said businesses may be hiring workers instead of investing in new equipment and technology because it is easier and cheaper to lay off an employee.
Much of the growth in employment has also been in areas such as self-employment, zero-hours contracts and agency work, raising concerns that employment is becoming more precarious.
The BCC’s survey showed 79% of hotel and catering businesses tried to hire people, with strong demand for seasonal workers, but more than three-quarters of the jobs were part-time. Demand for transport and distribution jobs was strong at 72% but recruitment was lower for retailers at 50%.
Claire Walker, the BCC’s co-executive director of policy and campaigns, said the results were good news but called on the government to clear up uncertainty over Brexit and immigration.
“Demand for seasonal workers, many of whom have traditionally come from the European Union, highlights the importance of the new government quickly setting out a sensible post-Brexit immigration policy,” she said.
“Businesses also need clarity on how they will be able to manage their future workforce requirements in the years to come and broader certainty on economic conditions after 31 October.”
Respondents to the BCC survey found it easier to get the right people as the percentage struggling to fill posts fell to 64% from 73% in the previous quarter. But the BCC said the figure remained high and urged the government to improve skills by improving education and training.
The BCC and the Totaljobs website surveyed businesses between 20 May and 10 June. More than 90% of the respondents were smaller businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
The BCC said that over the next three months 30% of businesses expected to hire more workers, 63% predicted no change and the remainder expected staff numbers to fall.