'Pretty bleak': British firms are more pessimistic about hiring workers than any point in 5 years

  • Pessimism about hiring UK staff is growing.
  • Just 4% UK employers planned to hire rather than cut staff in the last months of this year.

LONDON – Falling unemployment has been a bright spot in a bleak picture for the economy since the Brexit vote, but pessimism about hiring staff is growing.

A new poll of 2,102 employers found a net balance of just 4% UK employers plan to hire rather than cut staff in the first quarter of 2018, the lowest figure in five years. That figure fell furthest in London to 0%, blamed on the capital’s prospects after leaving the EU, and to 3% in south-east England.

The survey was conducted by employment agency ManpowerGroup Solutions, and it is used by the Bank of England to track hiring sentiment. It comes ahead of official jobs figures on Wednesday.

“This makes for a pretty bleak midwinter considering it comes at a time when Brexit talks are on a knife-edge,” said James Hick, managing director of ManpowerGroup Solutions, in an emailed statement.

He said the country was “starting to see tangible signs of London’s pre-eminence fading with the capital reporting its weakest outlook in four years.”

ManpowerGroup also said there were signs of growing skills shortages in some sectors, including for freight lorry drivers, with 52,000 vacancies in the transport industry.

The Treasury predicted unemployment would rise by more than 500,000 in two years following a vote to leave the EU, but it has fallen. The Office for National Statistics said it dropped 59,000 to 1.42 million in the three months to September.

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