UK labor market strength fades fast in April, recruiters say

FILE PHOTO:  Builders work on a construction site in London
FILE PHOTO: Builders work on a construction site in London, Britain August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

May 9, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British companies’ demand for staff rose at the slowest rate since 2012 last month, according to a survey on Thursday that suggested the labor market, a bright spot in the economy ahead of Brexit, might be losing its shine.

The monthly index of staff demand from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and accountants KPMG fell to 53.6 from 55.5 in March, its lowest level since August 2012.

The survey also showed slower pay growth, something the Bank of England said last week it had seen signs of recently.

Starting salaries for new permanent staff rose by the smallest amount in two years, though pay growth for temporary workers improved slightly.

Business confidence fell in Britain in the run-up to the original Brexit date of March 29, and growth in much of the rest of the world has weakened.

However, job creation roared ahead in the three months to February, pushing the unemployment rate down to its lowest since 1975 at 3.9 percent.

While the Bank of England last week predicted the unemployment rate would fall a little further, Thursday’s REC survey suggests the labor market is slowing.

“This report shows how the UK jobs market has seized up, with both employers and candidates waiting to see which direction Brexit is going to go in,” said James Stewart, vice chair of accountants KPMG, who sponsor the survey.

Other business surveys have also pointed to weakening hiring intentions among British companies.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)

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