RBS: Unprecedented drop in permanent jobs amid coronavirus lockdown

Permanent staff appointments and temporary billings across Scotland declined at the most marked rates on record during April, according to the latest Royal Bank of Scotland Report on Jobs.

At the same time, vacancies continued to decline, with demand for both permanent and temporary staff falling at the most marked rates on record. Pay for both permanent and temporary staff declined amid weaker demand conditions, with the reduction in the former the most marked since data collection began in 2003.

Permanent staff appointments across Scotland declined for the third month running in April, with the respective index falling a substantial 31.8 points from March to signal the most severe reduction since the survey’s inception in January 2003. Panellists reported that many firms had stopped hiring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concurrently, temporary staff billings across Scotland fell further, with the rate of decline hitting a new record in April. As was the case with permanent appointments, respondents linked the drop to the coronavirus outbreak.

April data signalled a sustained fall in demand for permanent staff in Scotland. Permanent vacancies fell at the most marked rate in more than 17 years of data collection, with the drop in Scotland outstripping that recorded at the UK level.

Temporary vacancies followed a similar trend, falling for the second month running and at the quickest rate on record.

Pay pressures across Scotland weakened notably during April. Salaries awarded to permanent new joiners dropped for the first time in over seven-and-a-half years, with the rate of decline the fastest in the series history.

Average hourly rates for short-term staff meanwhile declined for the first time since February 2013. That said, the reduction in temp wages was only mild and softer than that reported at the UK level.

Permanent candidate availability continued to deteriorate in April, extending the current sequence of reduction to over eight years. Although still solid, the latest fall was the softest since September 2016.

Meanwhile, the supply of temporary staff in Scotland increased for the first time since late-2016 during April. Panellists associated the rise to lay-offs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the rate of increase was the quickest recorded in over nine years and sharp.

Sebastian Burnside, chief economist at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “April data laid bare the unprecedented damage that the COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on the Scottish jobs market. Both permanent placements and temporary billings declined at the most marked rates in over 17 years of data collection, with recruiters often blaming hiring freezes, redundancies and company closures.

“Consequently, vacancies for both permanent and short-term staff declined at historic rates. Pay pressures eased notably, as permanent starting salaries fell at the quickest pace on record while hourly wages for temp staff declined for the first time in over seven years.

“That said, things did not look better when comparing this to the UK as a whole during April, as staff placements dropped at an even faster rate at the national level. With no indication of lockdown measures being lifted in the immediate future, the Scottish jobs market will remain in choppy waters for some time to come.”

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