BRITISH recruiters expect widespread job losses for temporary staff in the hospitality, travel and retail sectors and reduced hiring for permanent jobs across the economy as the coronavirus hits the country.
“At the start of the year … there was massive optimism. Now the crisis has come and kiboshed that,” Tom Hadley, policy director at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, told Reuters.
He held an online meeting with more than 200 of the trade association’s members on Friday. Some 80 per cent of them expected the crisis to hurt hiring in the short term, with 35 per cent predicting a major impact.
More than a third said demand for staff was falling, for both permanent and temporary positions – though in most cases the drop was small so far.
For certain sectors the prospects are darker.
“Some of our members, in sectors like hospitality, office admin are really struggling,” Hadley said.
“Demand is not going to be there, especially for hospitality. Events are being cancelled. People are not going out.”
Some retailers were struggling too, he added, highlighting the Bicester Village designer fashion outlet north of London, which had previously been very popular with Chinese tourists.
The Bank of England cited anecdotal evidence of a slowdown in retail as one reason for its emergency interest rate cut on Wednesday (11). The government has promised help for businesses hurt by sick pay bills.
Until now, Britain’s job market has been robust with a record proportion of people in work in the final quarter of 2019.
But the economy as a whole has remained in a fragile state, with zero economic growth in the three months to January.
Britain has not banned large public events or closed bars and restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus, unlike elsewhere in Europe.
But British Airways warned staff on Friday (13) they faced at least temporary job losses due to the global slump in air travel. England’s soccer Premier League has suspended matches until April.
Some workers, however, are in increased demand.
Adverts for delivery drivers on job site Indeed were 35 per cent higher over the past week than in late January, according to Pawel Adrjan, the site’s head of research for Europe.
This was “probably in the expectation that home deliveries of food and necessities will rise,” he said.
Adverts for roles in the travel and hotel sector were down by eight per cent, and food and beverage industry job adverts also declined.
Overall job adverts were little changed compared with a year ago but the mix of jobs on offer was shifting, he said.
“Despite the disruption to people’s lives, many businesses are still looking for new workers,” he said.
The REC’s Hadley predicted continued appetite for temporary staff, other than in hospitality and retail, due to a shortage of health and social care workers and a need to cover staff absence due to sickness.
But he saw a hiatus in permanent recruitment on the way.
“The freeze might be more on the perm side, putting things on hold. You’re not sure what is going to happen.”