DEMAND for new staff dropped off in March, according to the latest Reed Job Index, leading to new fears of increased unemployment before the general election.
The index fell three per cent on February’s reading of 105, signalling an end to the rise in job opportunities since the start of the year. Demand for engineering and scientific and manufacturing staff was particularly poor.
Martin Warnes, managing director of reed.co.uk, said: “Mixed economic signals are emerging from the latest Reed Job Index. Overall demand for new staff dropped back in March, reversing the slow but steady rise in vacancies that began at the turn of the year.
“While new jobs are still at a higher level than last year, across the board employers have become more cautious about committing to new recruitment.”
However, demand for professionals in key business areas and services such as accounting, general insurance and banking has surged. The index measuring jobs available in marketing and PR jumped to 117, up from 110 in February and 100 in December.
“Demand for qualified accountants and strategic consultants are now at their highest levels since the index was set last year, in spite of pre-election jitters in the City,” Warnes said.
“Although it is early days, this could indicate that the business service sector will once again lead the UK economy out of recession.”
Figures released by The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG also showed that demand for new staff slowed to its lowest level since January.
And the REC and KPMG warned of trouble ahead for workers in the public sector who haven’t yet felt the full force of the recession.
Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG said: “A lot of the current hiring activity is going on in the public sector.
“The public sector recession which clearly is on the cards hasn’t hit the jobs market yet but when it does, the upwards trend we have seen [in demand] over the last couple of months may come to a halt.”