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Record employment levels – what are the challenges and opportunities for Clients and Candidates?

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

If you follow the headlines, you’ll know that UK employment is at a record high. The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics indicate that this dropped to 3.8 per cent in January to March 2019. At a first glance, this news seems largely positive, however an in-depth look at the job market shows the reality is more complex.

At Allen Associates, we keep a close eye on the job market and have first-hand experience of how current employment levels have affected Clients and Candidates in Oxford, as well as those in London – and it’s worth noting that regional location can make a difference to challenges and opportunities faced.

Within Oxford, 79.6 per cent of the population is in employment, a figure higher than employment levels for the South East or the UK as a whole. As a result, there are fewer Candidates on the market, creating a war for talent between companies who compete with each other to attract the best applicants available.

For the capital, employment figures are also high – 73.8 per cent of the population within inner London are in jobs at the moment. However, from my experience, this creates less of a challenge. As a location, London is highly attractive, a lot of people want to work in the city (including international workers) so there’s a rich talent pool.

It pays to know your local jobs market, and it also pay to act fast when it comes to hiring. In fact, this is one of the major challenges businesses face, regardless of location. High levels of employment have created a Candidate-driven market where half of all UK Employers worry about whether they’ll attract enough people to apply for vacancies.

With a wealth of opportunities available, top Candidates hunting for a new job may receive multiple offers. Recent research shows that in the UK, 58 per cent of jobseekers are accepting a second choice offer after waiting too long to hear back from their first choice application. While it pays to be thorough, it’s also important to create an efficient and streamlined hiring process to reduce the risk of losing top talent.

Today, Employers are also having to raise their game by offering increased benefits and salaries to attract the right person. A survey of 400 firms led by the Open University found that many are having to pay ‘well above market rate’ in order to secure the right Employees. It’s clear that Candidates are doing their research and, they have the luxury of choice and can decide on the places that they find most attractive.

We know that many industries are facing a skills shortage – accommodation and food services has the highest vacancy rate of any industry in the UK. Therefore, companies are now having to consider recruiting for soft skills, the focus has shifted from finding experienced Candidates to securing people who have the aptitude and ability to learn on the job – something which we’d strongly encourage businesses to think about.

By now you’ll be getting the picture. Many of the challenges caused by today’s record employment level lie firmly on the shoulders of the Employer. On the plus side, there aren’t many downsides for Candidates. For those within Oxford in particular, they have a choice of opportunities to select from, so it’s a case of choosing what suits them, including what policies and benefits matter most to them.

The only downside for Candidates is that it can be stressful dealing with multiple offers. For advice on how to choose between two jobs, take a look at this article posted on our news and resource centre. Whether you need to decline your second choice, or deal with a counter offer from your current Employer, you’ll need a steady head to decide what’s best for you, as well as to act with true professionalism – it’s never a good idea to burn bridges when you’re likely to be entering the job market again.

So, how long will this current market state last for? Of course, it’s difficult to predict the future. We know from the latest REC report that uncertainty surrounding Brexit is beginning to affect hiring decisions. However, the fact that employment remains high despite this can be taken as a real positive, and for now, the future looks bright for Candidates.

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