Banks are hiring not firing – at least for now

Hopes that a City jobs bloodbath could be averted arrive today in the form of figures from the leading headhunter Astbury Marsden.

The recruiter says that 2,985 new jobs were created in the Square Mile in July, an improvement on recent months.

That's still down by 39 per cent on the same month a year ago, when there were 4,880 jobs going in the financial district. But it suggests that banks are looking to hire at least as many as they fire, a huge relief to a sector buffeted by scandal and going through a slump in business.

Trading houses and investment banks across town have been downsizing, with many brokers admitting that they fear for their jobs.

Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden, cautions against too much optimism.

"Although there has been some growth over the last month, the appetite to hire in the City remains pretty thin," he said. "Banks are hiring new staff, although this is more often than not to replace departing staff, as opposed to reacting to an anticipated growth in investment banking revenue."

The reputation of the London financial services sector has come under attack over manipulated borrowing rates and the mis-selling of interest rate swaps. This pressure increases the likelihood that banks, especially foreign-owned banks, will take business and jobs elsewhere.

Adds Mr Cameron: "Banker bashing has returned to London with a vengeance, and bullish optimism, which is usually more prevalent in the City than in other sectors, is now a rare commodity. Politicians and commentators need to stay balanced in their contributions to the public debate about the City, as they risk jeopardising a major source of jobs."

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