Stagnant jobs market dents Michael Page

STAGNATION in the British job market is here to stay, according to the head of recruitment firm Michael Page International, who yesterday announced a slump in half-year profits at his firm.

“Things don’t seem to be getting any better,” chief executive Steve Ingham said. “Our strongest region continues to be Asia-Pacific – we ended the first half with record performances in Singapore, China and Japan – but it clearly remains tough [in Britain] and clearly tough in the Eurozone.”

Its UK banking business has been particularly badly affected, with gross profit at the unit – the total income from fees – down 50 per cent in the first half of 2012 on a like-for-like basis.

Michael Page, which specialises in white-collar recruitment, has found its business hit by recession as firms are reluctant to hire and candidates are not as willing to switch companies.

“Trading in the second half of the year is anticipated to remain challenging given tough comparators and the ongoing backdrop of economic uncertainty,” said analyst Caroline de La Soujeole of Seymour Pierce.

“In the light of these uninspiring results, we see no reason to change our sell recommendation.”

Adjusted worldwide pre-tax profit dropped almost 21 per cent to £36.1m, with fee income edging down 0.5 per cent to £273.9m. The UK, which provides almost a quarter of Michael Page’s gross profit, saw fee income decline 10 per cent in the first six months of 2012.

The firm continues to look to developing markets, opening new offices in Casablanca, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, as well as entering the Colombian market.

Michael Page is not alone, with the entire recruitment sector suffering during the downturn. Rivals Hays and Robert Walters also reported poor results in recent months.

Shares in the firm, which have already fallen by a quarter since March, closed down a further 1.9 per cent at 371.20p.