Brexit latest: Slowing immigration from European Union already hurting labour market say recruiters

​The Markit/REC survey fits with other data suggesting a peak in EU migration levels to the UK since last June's Brexit vote

Ben Chu
Economics Editor
Monday 08 May 2017 14:51 BST
Hospital staff are already in shorter supply
Hospital staff are already in shorter supply (PA wire)

The UK jobs market is already beginning to feel the negative impact of Brexit, with shortages of European Union migrant labour in growing evidence in sectors ranging from nursing, to cleaning, to IT and accountancy.

The latest Markit/REC Report on Jobs, a survey of recruiters, shows the availability of permanent and temporary candidates fell at the fastest pace in 16 months in April.

This was as vacancies continued to rise "markedly" and recruiters flagged a shortage of suitable applicants for more than 60 different roles.

Kevin Green, the chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) suggested that this growing tightness in the labour market reflected, in part, a growing unwillingness of EU citizens to come to work in the UK.

“We have the lowest unemployment rate since 2005, and people already in work are becoming more hesitant about moving jobs amid Brexit uncertainty. Meanwhile, the weakening pound and lack of clarity about future immigration rules is putting off some EU nationals from taking up roles in the UK," he said.

More unavailable

Markit/REC (PA)

According to the survey of 400 recruitment and employment consultancies 38 per cent reported lower permanent candidate numbers available in the month against 8 per cent who saw an increase.

All regions saw drops in candidate availability, with the most rapid in the South of England.

The number of temporary staff available fell at its fastest rate since the end of 2015.

“This study makes very clear the serious impact Brexit-related uncertainty is having on our economy, and the fears employers have that it could lead to skills shortages," said Jame McGrory of the Open Britain group.

"Workers are unwilling to move to new jobs because they fear the damage a job-destroying, chaotic Brexit would have on our economy. Companies worry that draconian new immigration rules will make it harder for them to get the skilled labour they need, damaging both our economy and our public services".

​The Markit/REC survey fits with other data suggesting a peak in EU migration levels to the UK since last June's Brexit vote.

New National Insurance registrations by workers from the Continent have plateaued since the vote to leave the EU, which was marked by anti-European immigrant sentiment.

And the Office for National Statistics' Labour Force Survey has also indicated a peak in active EU workers.

Finally, provisional net immigration figures released in February from the ONS also point to a slower rate of EU immigration to the UK in the third quarter of last year, directly after the referendum.

“Given that all three sources point to falling or plateauing migration flows, or indeed actually falling migrant worker numbers, we can be fairly confident that a shift is underway,” said Stephen Clarke, an analyst at the Resolution think tank said in a March report.

Theresa May confirmed on Monday that the Conservatives will retain their pledge to reduce immigration down to the "tens of thousands" in their manifesto for June's general election, despite warnings from labour market specialists that achieving this reduction in inflows would harm the overall economy and damage average living standards.

The future post-Brexit rights and status of the roughly three million EU workers currently residing in the UK also remains unresolved - and is expected to be a key battleground between the UK and EU in the coming divorce talks.

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