Six-month high in the number of UK business sectors that are recruiting new staff

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Our team here at TS Partners appreciates that for many long-time readers of our news pages, there will be an eagerness to see almost any reason to feel positive about the prospects for UK business.

And sure enough, there has indeed been some heartening news lately, in the form of the Bank of Scotland UK Sector Tracker revealing that in April 2023, the number of UK sectors hiring new workers reached its highest level for six months.

What did the bank’s tracker reveal about the situation for firms up and down the UK?

Such have been the continuing travails for UK businesses in recent times, that October 2022 might already feel like a long time ago.

Nonetheless, it was pleasing for our team to read – in The Scotsman and elsewhere – that 10 of the 14 sectors monitored by the bank upped their headcount in April. This was four more than in March.

It was the property sector that increased its hiring at the quickest rate, producing an index reading of 59.1. A tracker reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 signals contraction.

Following closely behind the property sector in the ranking was software and services, which yielded a 58.5 reading, amid the heightened availability of workers and improved expectations of future growth in output, all of which helped to drive up recruitment.

Indeed, April saw a 14-month low in mentions of staff shortages by businesses polled for the tracker. As for future growth output expectations over the 12 months across the economy, the measure for this increased to 71.4 – the highest level for 13 months. Clearly, businesses were less worried about the scope for inflationary pressures to impact output over the year to come.

Output growth expectations were strongest among automobile and auto part manufacturers, for which a reading of 83.3 was recorded. The second and third most optimistic sectors in this regard were the software and services and food and drink manufacturing sectors, showing readings of 82.5 and 81.3 respectively.

There was, however, a further increase in reports of wage pressures during April. This is a factor that could affect inflation’s trajectory over the coming months.

There’s reason for UK businesses to be hopeful – but the biggest challenges are far from over yet

Taken together, the data from the latest tracker paint a picture of firms across the UK stepping up their recruitment activity, amid many of those businesses finding it less challenging to hire staff, and showing heightened confidence in future output growth.

Still, the continued intense competition in some industries for the best workers, and upward pressure on wages – a factor that some firms cited as a key reason for putting up output prices in April – provide an important reminder of how big an issue inflation still is.

Whatever the outlook for your own organisation may be at this stage of 2023, you might well be highly appreciative of the right support from suitably qualified accounting, tax, and payroll professionals.

Indeed, whether you are in need of services in relation to accounting, bookkeeping, management accounts, or VAT & PAYE enrolment in Plymouth and Wellington – to cite just some of our areas of knowhow – you are welcome to get in touch with your nearest TS Partners office.