Big talking point: The word on the street

The REC has partnered with Emsi UK to provide detailed local job market data. Here’s why that data could help grow your business

Whether you are looking for growth or worried about retaining current clients, knowledge is power. Recruitment businesses need to be well-informed of labour market conditions and they need to be able to have strategic conversations with clients to offer real value as a business partner. It’s not enough to have a basic idea of the trends affecting the industry as a whole. The UK is a big place. Regions are experiencing varying rates of growth, across different sectors. Current pressures and challenges play out in different ways. It all depends on the kind of businesses and jobs in the mix.

And the differences are set to grow.


A regional approach

Economic uncertainty in the run up to Brexit has affected and will continue to affect businesses in any number of ways. How much they feel the impact of the decreasing availability of EU workers will depend on which sectors are dominant in their area, while the knock-on effect that one large, struggling employer can have on their local supply chain and recruitment prospects can be significant.

On the positive side, areas are also increasingly proactive in pursuing opportunities for growth, building on the successful businesses (or universities) they’re home to and what they see as their particular strengths.

Each nation of the UK has its sights set on improving lacklustre productivity and implementing strategies to boost growth. In England, this started in earnest in 2011 when the government introduced local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) – with local authorities, education establishments and businesses working together to focus on improving local conditions for growth. They, in turn, have supported new enterprise zones, which offer businesses tax breaks and government support to unlock development sites, attract new businesses and create jobs. And eight new ambitious metropolitan mayors, most recently in Sheffield and North Tyne, are eager to spearhead regeneration and improve their region’s employment records.

Now we’re starting to see the arrival of local industrial strategies too. The first, for Greater Manchester, launched in June, focusing on how the local area will support continued growth in areas of strength: health care and innovation; advanced manufacturing; digital, creative and media; and clean growth. This growth plan will have a clear impact on skills needs, as well as client and candidate expectations. And as more areas realise their different priorities, recruiters’ need to improve their local knowledge to match.

Already, according to the REC’s JobsOutlook in August, 87% of employers who recruit temporary agency workers highlighted the importance of a recruitment agency’s geographical and/or skills expertise when selecting their agency partners – up from 70% a year earlier.  


Digging deeper

But it’s not just differences between regions – but also within regions – that matter. The REC’s new Workforce Intelligence series – in partnership with Emsi UK – provides detailed data and insight on key issues such as jobs and job posting trends, industry growth and headline occupation categories. And comparing the available reports shows how uneven growth can be.

The North East region, for example, was hit particularly hard following the recession – and it’s the only area to post a net decrease in jobs in the 10 years since. But different industries and localities in the region have had very different experiences. Since 2015, highly specialised jobs in education and professional/scientific roles have fallen by 13% and 28% respectively in the North East LEP, but administrative and support services saw an increase of 23%. And while 2,650 jobs were lost in Newcastle last year, 820 were created in Sunderland.

Differences in performance can be seen across other regions too. Last year the East Riding of Yorkshire saw more jobs created than its neighbours of York and Harrogate combined. Meanwhile, Bromsgrove led job creation across the Birmingham and Solihull LEP, but a fall in employment in Tamworth, Redditch and East Staffordshire contributed to a picture of slowing growth overall.


Onto a winner?

Focusing in on sector performance and health & social work has fuelled jobs growth across England and Northern Ireland, but it’s worth noting it was one of the worst performers in North Yorkshire (down 8%). No sector offers a guaranteed bet for growth.

Similarly, just because a sector is suffering in one area, it doesn’t mean that that’s the case across the board. Despite the fall in professional/scientific roles in the North East, growth in the same sector has helped drive Cheshire and Warrington into one of the top five performing LEPs in England (see table above). Construction jobs may have fallen by 15% across Birmingham and Solihull between 2015 and 2018, but the sector comes top for growth for the South East LEP, which covers parts of Essex, Kent and East Sussex (up 15% for the same period).

And if you need further proof that different sectors present different opportunities in different regions, look at the rest of the top five performing LEPs: for Hertfordshire, growth has been driven by wholesale, retail and motor repair industries; for both Worcester and Greater Manchester, it’s transportation and storage; and for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, it’s the accommodation and food service sector. London perhaps surprisingly only ranks sixth for jobs growth, but here it’s driven by the creation of jobs in information and communication.

Every region is unique. And by deepening their understanding of local labour market dynamics, recruiters can better support clients and candidates. At the same time, whether they are looking to diversify, specialise in certain sectors or expand into new territories, the REC’s reports can help them make better informed decisions about the direction and growth of their own business.

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Top 10 Local Enterprise Partnerships in England for jobs growth 2013-2018








Cambridgeshire and Peterborough



Cheshire and Warrington



Greater Manchester









Coventry and Warwickshire



South East Midlands



Greater Birmingham and Solihull


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