Hays boss: Londoners should look outside of the capital for signs of optimism in the UK jobs market

 
Oliver Gill
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The landmark sculpture entitled 'Angel o
The Angel of the North: Hays' chief exec reckons Londoners could do well by looking at the reaction from outside the capital to the Brexit vote (Source: Getty)

London's workers should look beyond the capital for evidence that greenshoots are emerging in the UK jobs market after the meteoric shock of the Brexit vote, the boss of Britain's largest recruitment firm said today.

FTSE 250 firm Hays' today revealed UK revenues fell by 10 per cent in the six months to December.

"Immediately post the EU referendum we had a couple of weeks were activity levels dropped quite markedly," Alistair Cox, the chief executive of Hays, told City A.M.

The 55-year-old said although the London market was hit hardest, with revenues down 15 per cent, other parts of the country had fared much better. Scotland and Northern Ireland figures were broadly flat, while in Wales they were down two or three per cent.

Read more: Hays' shares fall after like-for-like profits stutter

He added:

Living in London we can sometimes get carried away with how good and bad things feel, based on what we see.

"London does tend to be a bit of an exaggerated market. When things are good, London is really good. When things are more difficult, London can feel really difficult. And that's what we are witnessing today. As we live and work in London sometimes it can feel like the whole world is talking about the implications of Brexit and how difficult this is going to be.

But when you go out the Midlands, the north, you go out west, Scotland, Northern Ireland people are getting on with things.

Cox was referring to the private sector side of Hays UK business, which represents 75 per cent of operations. He said public sector hiring remained extremely challenging given the current government's tightening of the purse strings.

Read more: Hays understands logic of City firms hiring abroad

Rude health

Although the firm started out in the UK, Hays now generates 75 per cent of its earnings from abroad, and Cox was keen to emphasise the group's headline 17 per cent revenue growth and 10 per cent increase in operating. "We're in rude health," he said.

"Virtually every market around the world is growing, most of them in double-digits."

Read more: London jobs market fades as UK returns to pre-referendum patterns

The figures, however, disappointed the market as shares fell over five per cent in trading. Hays' chief executive was more coy on the reasons for this.

He said: "I never personally try to look at the share price on the day of results."

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