H2 2023, a shift away from being a ‘candidate’s market’???

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Will H2 2023 be similar to H1 2009? – no vacancies, loads of redundancies, lots of chaos….. and ultimately a shift from away from being a ‘candidate’s market’???

The cost of living crisis is really starting to bite down hard and for us this market has a slight feel of the front end of the 2008/2009 conditions… 

I think we might be on the cusp of a changing job landscape – not immediate, not in the postman’s hand… but perhaps in the sorting centre.  

When we came out of the pandemic there were about 1 million less workers in the UK workforce – primarily those folks had either retired or had been EU workers that pulled away from the UK market post-Brexit. Soon after unemployment hit a 40 year low and vacancy numbers an all time high of >1.3m.

For businesses recruiting this has meant:

·        More competition when recruiting.

·        More challenge around retention (because their staff were in high demand from the market).

Most businesses in the UK have found recruiting a hard slog.

This in turn led swiftly to:

·        High salary and benefits expectation 

The median annual earnings for full-time employees in the United Kingdom was approximately £33,000 in 2022, compared with £31,285 in the previous year. This was a significant jump but still lagged behind inflation. 

As we know, UK inflation has been soaring almost uncontrollably in the background – reaching double digits in 2023 — overall in 2022 it was over 9% – the highest in over 30 years (for context it tends to track at 2% ish and the closest in recent years was a peak of 6.9% in 1990!) 

So, in real terms private sector and particularly public sector employees will be feeling the pinch when it comes to their general overheads – because price increases outstrips their pay packet improvements. 

Sat behind that is the current and looming mortgage rate issue. 

Despite the banks expectations in Q1 rates are on the surge again in June – with current 2 year fixed averages over 6% (coming up from 2% ish during the pandemic). 

About a third of homeowners haven’t needed to switch yet – but it’s estimated about 300,000 people week will need to over summer / autumn months…. And the average estimate is that the new mortgages will be about 7 grand per year more than the current deal. 

Probably most unnervingly – recent polling suggested nearly half of borrowers fear they will struggle with their housing payments within 12 months.

So it’s fair to say we are likely on the real cusp of a change in market conditions. The pinch is being felt and its gonna to get pinchier. 

As it stands in accountancy and finance it remains a ‘candidate’s market’ for the time being. Jobs are not straightforward to fill and competition for shallow candidate pools is very, very tight. 

But it won’t be this forever. 

So what does it mean for businesses looking to recruit, retain when the market begins to turn… and what does it mean for people considering a job move? 


·        You might have to make redundancies. You might also be forced to enforce pay freezes.  That will be unsettling – clearly for the people you release but also for the people you retain. While the job market might be lighter there will still be undoubted pockets of activity and your talented employees will be headhunted. 

·        Recruitment might be slightly easier!!! Maybe!! 40% of large businesses and 20% of SMEs forecast redundancies in the next 12 months. Skilled employees will land in the market which should create some degree of easing.

However – Recruitment might not be as easy as you think!!! All of the issues above tend to create caution. Caution means lower application volumes. So headlines of mass redundancies doesn’t always mean loads of CVs to look at! It’s offset by passive job seekers opting to ‘sit tight’…. “better the devil they know”.

Job Seekers:

·        The job market may get more competitive. Excellent vacancies will always land in the market – I recruited some brilliant roles in the absolute thick of the financial crisis. But they were tougher to secure. 

·        Hybrid working might become less available. There has been massive pressure for businesses to offer major flexibility – in reality a tighter job market might mean employers don’t have their arm forced as high up their backs. 

·        Being qualified will help you. In a downturn accountancy qualifications really hold their value. QBE salaries took an absolute hammering in the 2009 recession conditions, ACCA, ACA and CIMA quals created some degree of platform and mitigation against salary erosion. 

It is likely to slowly shift from a complete candidates market to a middle ground and maybe even as far as becoming an employers market by this time next year.  It’s tricky to be sure because less jobs and cost of living crisis might cause candidates to sit tight … and we still don’t understand exactly how bad the labour deficit is post Brexit. 

Time will tell. 

If you are a UK based business and need help with your qualified finance recruitment and want to discuss options drop us a line on 01246 541 927. 

Thanks as always for reading. 

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