LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s labour market remained in freefall during May as the coronavirus lockdown kept businesses closed, although the pace of decline eased slightly, a survey showed on Friday.
The monthly index of demand for staff from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) industry body and accountants KPMG rose to 19.3 from April’s record low of 9.3.
Despite the jump, it was a long way from the 50 dividing line between rising and falling demand and it marked the second-worst reading in the survey’s 23-year history.
“Given the impact of the lockdown in early May, it’s no surprise that these figures look bleak,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said.
“But in the two weeks since this data was collected, lockdown rules have been eased and the feedback we get from recruiters every day suggests that the slight improvements that we can see in the placements and vacancies data have continued.”
The medical and nursing care sector was the only one to show an increase in demand for staff, the report showed.
Demand in the retail and hotel and catering sectors cratered.
Still, Carberry said he had heard hints of optimism from business leaders.
“There is a long way to go, but it’s time to talk about how we recover from this crisis,” he said.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Stephen Addison)