(Source: BBC News)
Paul Gilley says he has never seen so few new jobs in the UK hospitality sector – across restaurants, bars and hotels.
Recruitment is bad overall “but in hospitality it is non-existent,” says the boss of London-based recruitment firm PJ Search & Selection. Mr Gilley has run his business for 20 years, specialising in the hospitality sector. Back in March, he says that everything stopped overnight. “Contracts were being cancelled, all permanent vacancies were drying up and within a week we had nothing,” he says.
Despite England being set to come out of the current lockdown on 2 December, returning to a tier-based system and with Christmas fast approaching, Mr Gilley does not see things improving until well into 2021. “The hospitality sector is going to try its damnedest to have a good Christmas, but with social distancing rules in place you can have only less than half the normal number of customers, so extra staff just aren’t needed,” he says. “Places are opening their doors not to make money, but to lose less.”
Recruitment agencies are a very good barometer of a country’s economy. And across the UK they have seen business dry up, as unemployment has risen due to Covid and the subsequent lockdowns and tier restrictions. The latest official figures show that the UK unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in the three months to September, up from 4.1% in the proceeding quarter. And the unemployment rate among 16 to 24-year-olds, who make up much of the staff across restaurants, bars and hotels, is now 14.6%, also according to official data. Overall UK unemployment is now expected to reach 7.5% next year.
This bleak situation also applies to retail, and is replicated globally, says Ann Swain, the chief executive of APSCo, an international trade body that represents the recruitment sector. “In March, education recruitment fell off a cliff because schools were closed down, and other markets followed with permanent recruitment dying for weeks or longer for the likes of retail and hospitality,” she says. But Ms Swain says recruitment has since picked up in areas such as distribution, healthcare and the pharmaceutical sector, where firms have been looking for Covid vaccines. In fact, some entrepreneurs are launching new recruitment firms to capitalise on these trends. One such is UK industry veteran David Spencer-Percival, who has started Life Sciences People, focusing on the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector. “The sector is seeing record investment,” he says. “If you are already in a downturn or recession then there’s everything to play for if you time it right, as the economy can only move one way – up.”