Brexit uncertainty has sparked a slump in construction recruitment, and the annual increase in construction hiring over the summer “didn’t happen,” according to recruiter Randstad.
The three summer months of June, July, and August usually see approximately 30% of all permanent annual recruitment jobs filled in the construction sector, according to the company. But this year the summer made up just 16% of its previous 12 months’ recruitment placements, as projects are put on hold or work slowed.
Owen Goodhead, managing director of Randstad Construction Property & Engineering, said: “This year, summer didn’t happen. It was dismal. The new jobs market has been devastated. The entire course of the construction industry is now being set by Brexit as clients cut budgets and property developers delay decision-making.
“The prime minister, the government, and parliamentarians must all take heed. MPs need to agree a Brexit plan between them, or let us leave without a deal, or move a vote of no confidence, or agree to an election. Until one of those things happen, the British labour market is going to keep running out of steam.”
Goodhead added: “Parliamentary and political paralysis is leading to widespread delays with spending decisions and encouraged risk aversion across the construction sector. Our clients are trying to hold back on all but essential repair and maintenance work.
“If the work looks like it's drying up, EU workers who were undecided about staying or leaving until now may be more likely to up sticks and head home. While that will help prop up pay, it will also make it harder, in a post Brexit environment, to ramp construction back up again. The industry has shown a great deal of resilience to date, but the government needs to take a leap of faith to get things moving again.”
The news comes as two of Britain’s biggest recruitment companies - PageGroup and Robert Walters - have warned that Brexit uncertainty, protests in Hong Kong and the US-China trade dispute will all combine to hit their profits this year.
PageGroup said rising fears about Brexit had made companies less willing to hire workers and potential candidates wary about moving jobs. It said its annual operating profit would be between £140m and £150m compared with expectations for £156m, while Robert Walters predicted no increase in profit this year.
Both companies reported falling UK profits over the period. PageGroup’s UK profit fell 4% to £33.8m in the three months to September and Robert Walters’ dropped 11% to £24.3m.