Michael Page reports upturn in worldwide job market

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The Independent Online

Michael Page International, the recruitment company, yesterday said its first-half profits had leapt by more than a third as business confidence improved around the world.

Michael Page International, the recruitment company, yesterday said its first-half profits had leapt by more than a third as business confidence improved around the world.

Terry Benson, the chief executive, said the resurgence in recruitment activity was happening across all sectors of the job market after three years of global downturn.

"More companies are now more confident about hiring people, but another very important factor is that existing workers are looking to switch employers," he said. "Last year, if you had a decent job you may have held back from switching because of uncertainties like falling stock markets, war, and Sars. Things look more stable now, so people are revisiting their career prospects."

More than half its business comes from the UK, where turnover was up 21 per cent to £111m. The marketing, sales and retail sectors saw the strongest rebound, with revenues up 25 per cent. The finance and accounting sectors are also enjoying a pick-up in recruitment activity, with revenues up 18 per cent.

The proportion of the permanent placements filled by Michael Page rose to 71 per cent during the period from 68 per cent a year earlier, showing that the companies are more willing to make long-term commitments with staff. These also bring higher margins for Michael Page than temporary positions.

Outside the UK, the Asia Pacific region is also improving, with turnover up 18 per cent and operating profits up 51 per cent to £4.8m. This month the group entered an agreement with a Shanghai-based partner to give it a footing in the Chinese market.

The only area where Michael Page is still struggling to improve is Europe. About 30 per cent of the group's business is from France, and the recruitment sector here is still challenging. Revenues dropped in the first half of the year, but Mr Benson said the market was now starting to recover.

The performance in the Americas, the UK and Asia offset the disappointment on the Continent and helped lift pre-tax profits at the group by 35 per cent to £17.76m in the first half of the year. Turnover was up 13.4 per cent to £205m.

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