UK firms step up hiring as lockdown nears end

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British companies sharply stepped up hiring and offered higher pay to new staff last month as they grew more confident about economic recovery and prepared for COVID restrictions to ease, a recruiters body said on Thursday.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation said employers hired permanent staff at the fastest rate in six years and spending on temporary staff rose by the most since November 2017.

“Business confidence is starting to flow back, even at this early stage of unlocking,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said.

Non-essential shops in England will reopen to the public next week for the first time since January and pubs and restaurants are due to restart outdoor service too.

However retail and hospitality remained the weakest performing sectors last month, along with secretarial and clerical jobs, with demand strongest for nurses, IT workers and some blue-collar and finance roles.

The REC said that the supply of staff was not keeping pace with the rise in vacancies – as some potential employees were unsure the jobs would last – and that pay for temporary staff last month increased by the most since December 2019.

On Tuesday the International Monetary Fund revised up its outlook for British economic growth this year by 0.8 percentage points to 5.3%, a bigger increase than for the euro zone, in part due to the faster roll-out of COVID vaccines.

Government budget forecasters expect unemployment to rise later this year to a peak of 6.5% from its current rate of 5.0%, after furlough support payments stop at the end of September.

Main photo: A man looks over the Thames on London Bridge in London, Britain. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

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