Manpower survey reveals East of England as UK’s top region for jobs

Employers in the East are the UK's most optimistic in terms of recruitment plans over the next three

Employers in the East are the UK's most optimistic in terms of recruitment plans over the next three months, according to Manpower.

Employment prospects in the East of England are at their strongest for nearly two years, according to a new report – despite a weakening in optimism nationally which has been linked to the planned National Living Wage.

The latest quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey shows a balance of plus 12% between the percentage of employers in the East who plant to hire additional workers over the coming threee months and those who plan to reduce the size of their workforce.

This is the best figure for the region since the end of 2013 but it compares with a UK-wide figure of only plus 4%, the lowest level for three years.

Recruitment group Manpower, which compiles the survey, says it appears that employers natinoally are already reacting to the National Living Wage by scaling back their recruitment plans for the fourth quarter of 2015.

But any impact in the East is being offset by strong demand, particularly in the technology and manufacturing sectors, with the biggest issue for many employers being a shortage of candidates with the skills they require.

Krissie Davies, operations director at Manpower UK, said: “The East has the most confident outlook in the country going into the third quarter, and this is the most confident we have seen local employers since the end of 2013.

“There is particularly strong demand for technology professionals, especially in Suffolk. Other firms, particularly in the manufacturing and industrial sectors in Ipswich, are keen to hire, but unwilling to spend the money required to bring in talent.

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“Some companies are struggling to find top quality candidates, which is acting as a handbrake on hiring. Employers looking for candidates with a technology background are quite particular about the skills they require and the experience they are willing to consider.

“In light of the talent shortage, we have been working with local employers to identify whether experience for certain roles can be gained on the job, rather than being a prerequisite for hiring.

“This may create opportunities for people looking to make a career move into a new field. Meanwhile, workers who already have these in-demand skills are in a strong position, and we have seen a rise in the number of counter offers from employers competing for the same talent.”

The most optimistic regions and nations behind the East are Wales (plus 11%), the East Midlands (plus 10%), London (plus 8%) and the South East (plus 6%).

Below average scores were recorded however, in Yorkshire and Humberside (plus 3%), Northern Ireland and the South West (both plus 2%), the North West, Scotland and the West Midlands (all on zero), and the North East (minus 2%).

The National Livinig Wage, announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s post-election Budget, will see around 6million people receive a 6% pay rise each year until 2020, although the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that the extra cost could mean up to 60,000 job losses.

James Hick, ManpowerGroup Solutions managing director, said: “An unintended consequence of the introduction of the new Living Wage is that firms might try to bypass the legislation altogether.

“We anticipate that some employers may look to mitigate the extra costs by taking on more younger or self-employed workers, who are not entitled to the National Living Wage.

“While on the surface this could be good news for youth unemployment, which currently stands at 16%, it could push a greater proportion of young people into low skilled jobs, resulting in an influx of less experienced workers into social care and other sectors hardest hit by the new legislation. Meanwhile, candidates under the age of 25 have been asking us why it is they will be paid less despite doing equal work.”

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey is based on responses from 2,101 UK employers and is used as a key economic statistic by both the Bank of England and the UK Government.