Recruiter Hays hit by domestic slowdown

Tough economic conditions have hit the confidence of employers and jobseekers alike in recent months, British recruitment company Hays said in reporting a drop in business in its home market and a slowdown in growth overseas.

Hays, which specialises in placing office workers such as accountants, IT workers and secretaries, said on Tuesday net fees - or gross profit - rose 8 per cent in its second quarter to end-December, down from 15 percent in the previous quarter.

"Over the last two to three months the economy and markets have got more uncertain, the discussions we have with our clients on a daily basis are more cautious than they were two or three months ago and therefore we are going to run our business the same," Finance Director Paul Venables told reporters.

"We are in a different position than we were six months ago. Then both our client base and as an industry we were full steam ahead and now we are in a cautious position."

The firm, which makes 70 per cent of its net fees overseas, said its UK banking and public sector markets continued to struggle, with net fees dropping seven per cent overall.

Growth in mainland Europe and Asia Pacific helped offset this, albeit at slower rates than those in the first quarter. Fees in Europe, led by Germany and France, grew by 20 percent compared to 34 percent in its first quarter. Asia Pacific, led by Australia, grew by 11 per cent compared to 21 per cent last quarter.

"This is not a Lehmans moment, this is not where candidate confidence has collapsed. I think we are seeing candidates being a bit more cautious, but we are seeing clients outside of banking replace leavers. Everybody is looking at the broader macro economy," Venables said.

Hays' permanent recruitment market has been hit particularly hard by global conditions as potential jobseekers are unwilling to move positions in such uncertain times. The market, which accounts for just over 40 per cent of group fees, slowed from 15 per cent growth to one per cent for the quarter.

"I think there is clearly great uncertainty in the permanent recruitment market at the moment. The minute you have uncertainty in the press and newspapers over a period of three or four months it will always impact candidate confidence and we saw less candidates looking to change jobs and in the end that's what drives our activity," Venables added.