FBS Small Business Index

The latest FSB Small Business Index has found that times are tougher than ever for small firms after two difficult years.

The survey of 1,500 UK small firms, conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), finds that SME confidence has been in negative territory for nine consecutive quarters – since July 2018. It comes as small business revenue growth hits an all-time low and staff lay-offs hit an all-time high.

The Q3 SBI confidence figure stands at -32.6, down 28 points on last quarter. Only a third (34%) of those surveyed at the end of last month expect their performance to improve over the coming three months. The significant majority (66%) expect performance to worsen.

The findings also show that a record one in four (25%) small firms reduced headcounts last quarter. An even higher proportion (29%) expect to make redundancies over the coming three months; 12% say they expect to let at least a quarter of their staff go.

COVID-related disruption has caused revenue growth to fall to its lowest recorded ebb, with more than half (56%) of those surveyed reporting a drop. A similar share (50%) expect revenues to fall next quarter.

The FSB is warning that any potential economic recovery is stalling ahead of a difficult trading period in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the Brexit transition period. More than half of exporters polled say international sales have fallen over the past three months.

Although the FSB has welcomed the chancellor’s improvements to the current business and job support schemes, it is now calling for new measures, including:

  • Support for those that have received no income support to date;
  • A reduction in the cost of hiring new staff;
  • Lessening the burden of business rates;
  • Providing more resources for those looking to start a business for the first time.

“We must not forget that small firms were already under the cosh thanks to political uncertainty, rising costs and creaking infrastructure well before the Spring,” said Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman.

“The chancellor made some very welcome adjustments to support measures last week … However, too many are still without the help they need to weather current disruption – not least company directors, the newly self-employed, those without premises and those further down supply chains in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. An ambitious rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.

“If we want small business owners to create jobs, we have to bring down the costs of employment, starting with employer national insurance contributions. If we want them to invest, innovate and expand, we have to alleviate the strain of wider government-imposed overheads, including those stemming from an outdated business rates system which continues to stifle too many community businesses all over the country.”

Written by Rachel Miller.

Furlough Scheme Masks True Scale of UK Unemployment Rate
August 18, 2020
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The number of employees on UK payrolls in July 2020 was down an estimated 730,000 compared to March, according to the ONS labour market overview for August 2020.

Though the figures indicate employment is weakening due to the ongoing pandemic, the unemployment rate has remained largely unchanged due to an increase in economic inactivity, in which people are out of work but not looking for new jobs.

Joanne Frew, national head of employment at legal business DWF, said that this could be partly due to the number of people who have struggled with childcare throughout the pandemic and could therefore change as schools begin to reopen.

“The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will also inevitably be masking the true scale of unemployment,” she said.

“Figures are expected to surge in October when the scheme closes. Although the government has launched the Job Retention Bonus to help incentivise employers to bring employees back from furlough, longer-term strategies will need to be implemented to help tackle unemployment.”

Both the UK’s youngest workers and older generation pre-retirement age were found to be the most likely to be temporarily away from paid work during the pandemic.

This has created cause for concern due to the hiring challenges presented to each age group, particularly in a highly competitive job market.

“The sharp fall in employment highlights a dramatic deterioration for the employment prospects of young people, part-time workers and older workers in particular,” said Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD.

“A real concern is that this is just the first wave of bad news for the jobs market. The fact that reduced hiring rather than increased firing of permanent staff is the main cause of the jobs slowdown to-date bodes ill for the coming months if more employers turn to redundancies as a last resort.”

To support those disproportionately affected by the post-pandemic job market, City & Guilds Group has advised government to redirect its existing funding for further education.

City & Guilds Group CEO Kirstie Donnelly said that the funds should be allocated to develop skills that match jobs which are currently available and in demand.

“As the labour market shrinks, it’s crucial that we take immediate action to ensure that people, especially those most in need, have the opportunity to get the training, skills and experience they need to access employment, and that young people leaving education understand what is a viable route into a job,” she said.

The report also found that pay decreased in the three months to June 2020 to rates below price inflation, although in sectors like hospitality and construction where workers are returning from furlough, pay growth improved slightly for June 2020.

The claimant count increased by 116.8% from March to July, reaching 2.7 million people.

Smaller businesses drove vacancies in this same period up to 370,000 – a 10% increase on April to June.

With mass redundancies, job insecurity, and a recession ahead, the CIPD has called on government to undertake further intervention.

“The combination of large-scale job losses, job insecurity and falling real incomes means that the UK economy needs all the help it can get,” added Davies.

“The government might therefore wish to consider keeping an open mind to protecting some industries through a revised Job Retention Scheme beyond the end of October and through the winter.”

MPs Criticised as Job Vacancies Reach Record Low

MPs have been accused of watching from the side-lines rather than stopping job losses by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. 

This was in response to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures which found the number of workers on UK payrolls was down 650,000 compared with March 2020. 

Vacancies in the UK in the last three months were also at the lowest level since the ONS Vacancy Survey began in April to June 2001, at an estimated 333,000.

This is 23% lower than the previous record low in April to June 2009.

O’Grady said the figures were a national disaster waiting to happen.

She said: “Ministers are watching from the side-lines, instead of saving jobs with targeted support for the hardest-hit sectors like retail, manufacturing and aviation.

“The more people we have in work, the faster we will work our way out of recession. If the government doesn’t go all out to protect and create jobs, the economic crisis will be longer and harder.

“We can create jobs by fast-tracking infrastructure projects. This would speed up the delivery of faster broadband, more childcare, green technology, modern transport and housing. And it would create over a million jobs across the UK.”

The largest falls were seen at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and despite the numbers still falling, the rate of decline is slowing. 

The estimated employment rate for March to May 2020 was 76.4%, 0.3 percentage points up on the year but 0.2 percentage points down on the quarter.

This equates to 32.95 million people, 199,000 more than a year earlier but 126,000 fewer than the previous quarter.

Hours worked had reached record lows both on-the-year and on-the-quarter.

There are still a large number of people temporarily away from work, including furloughed workers, although this fell through May.

The ONS predicts half a million people are away from work and receiving no pay due to the pandemic. 

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City & Guilds Group, said the figures were a sign of the importance of providing training and jobs to those most in need. 

She said: “As well as supporting young people, we need to ensure that people of all ages, particularly those from lower socio-economic groups, or people displaced from industries badly impacted by the pandemic have the opportunities to gain the new skills they need to access meaningful employment.” 

Pay fell more in industries where furloughing was most prominent, particularly in typically low-pay industries such as accommodation and food service activities. 

Andrew Willis, head of legal at Croner, said HR should bear in mind the best methods of potential redundancy measures. 

He said: “Staff must be chosen in a fair and open way, preferably through a scoring criteria that focuses on attributes such as skills, experience and qualifications. 

“If more than 19 members of staff are to be made redundant, the employer will also need to implement a collective redundancy process. It should also be noted that furloughed staff can be made redundant at any point provided the correct procedure is followed.” 

The Job Retention Scheme, which was set up to protect jobs while businesses recover, will be wound down towards the end of October. 

Willis added: “It currently remains unclear what direction these figures will go in as the furlough scheme is wound down and employers lose the life jacket provided by the scheme. 

“That said, the government is committed to restarting the economy, with the hope that the general situation will improve going forward.” 

Government has attempted to incentivise employers to keep staff on until at least January 2021 by offering them £1,000 per employee if they can retain them until this time.

ONS Blog – Measuring the Labour Market During Coronavirus
April 21, 2020
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The coronavirus is clearly having a very serious effect on the UK economy.

Measuring its impact on the world of work presents unique challenges.

Ahead of the latest labour market statistics release, ONS Head of Labour Market and households David Freeman looks at how it is responding to the pressing need for new information.

Go to the blog

UK Unemployment Falls to Lowest Level Since 1975
December 19, 2019
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UK unemployment fell to its lowest level since January 1975 in the three months to October this year.

The number of people out of work fell by 13,000 to 1.281 million, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show.

Office block with workers visible through the windows

The employment rate rose to an all-time high of 76.2%, with an increase of 24,000 taking the number of people in work up to a total of 32.8 million.

However, annual wage growth, excluding bonuses, slowed to 3.5% from 3.6% from July to September.

ONS head of labour market David Freeman said: “While the estimate of the employment rate nudged up in the most recent quarter, the longer-term picture has seen it broadly flat over the last few quarters. However, unemployment among women has reached a new record low.

“Vacancies have fallen for 10 months in a row and are now below 800,000 for the first time in over two years.

“Pay is still increasing in real terms, but its growth rate has slowed in the last few months.” 

Unemployment graph

There were an estimated 794,000 vacancies in the UK for September to November 2019. That is 20,000 fewer than in the last quarter and 59,000 fewer than a year earlier.

The estimated employment rate for men was 80.4% and for women was 72%.

The increase in women’s employment in recent years is partly a result of changes to their State Pension age, which has meant fewer retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

The slight slowdown in wage growth is party caused by the fact that in October 2018, some unusually high bonuses were paid to some workers. Bonuses given this October returned to more expected levels.

For October 2019, average regular pay, before tax and other deductions, was estimated at £509.68 per week.

Real wages graph

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “There’s talent up and down this country – three-quarters of employment growth in the last year has been outside London and the South East.

“I’m looking forward to getting Brexit done and unleashing Britain’s potential, levelling up opportunity across the country.”

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “The UK’s jobs boom continues to be a big plus point for the economy, but it is slowly losing momentum. 

“Businesses have shown a strong appetite to take on staff in recent years, and climbing employment levels have boosted household incomes, adding buoyancy to the economy. However, firms are now cutting back on new hires as it becomes harder to find the skills they need. 

“Uncertainty and slowing global growth have also made businesses a bit more cautious in their recruitment plans, and vacancies are expected to continue falling into 2020.”

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Robert Cuffe, Head of statistics

Employment is at a record high and unemployment at a record low in October’s figures, but the Office for National Statistics says that both are broadly flat. 

How can that be true? 

These records involve the kind of tiny changes we’re used to seeing with new records in the 100-metre sprint. 

Employment’s previous record high was January’s figure of 76.13%. 

October’s estimate is 76.15%: an improvement of 0.02 percentage points. 

Vacancies graph

For unemployment, the record has gone down from 3.797% in May to 3.757% in October’s figures – a change of 0.04 percentage points. 

So the estimates haven’t been better in a long time, but the improvements are tiny and certainly smaller than the margin of error in any figures like these. 

Coupled with the substantial fall in job vacancies and a hint of slowing wage growth, the emerging picture is less of rampaging record highs and more of decelerating demand for new workers.

Regional Labour Market Statistics in the UK: October 2019
October 16, 2019
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Regional, local authority and Parliamentary constituency breakdowns of changes in UK employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other related statistics.

Main points
  • For the three months ending August 2019, the highest employment rate estimate in the UK was in the South West (81.0%) and the lowest was in the North East (71.2%).
  • For the three months ending August 2019, the highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK was in the North East (5.8%) and the lowest was in the South West (2.4%).
  • For the three months ending August 2019, the highest economic inactivity rate estimate in the UK was in Northern Ireland (26.4%) and the lowest was in the South West (17.0%).
  • Between March 2019 and June 2019, the largest estimated increase in workforce jobs in the UK was in the North East at 43,000, while the largest decrease was in London at 35,000.
  • In June 2019, the region with the highest estimated proportion of workforce jobs in the services sector was London at 91.4%, while the East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 14.4%.
  • The highest average estimated actual weekly hours worked, for the 12 months ending June 2019, was in London at 33.7 hours and the lowest was in the North East and South West, both at 31.3 hours; for full-time workers it was highest in Northern Ireland, at 38.6 hours and for part-time workers it was highest in Scotland at 17.1 hours.

Read more by following the link below:

https://iagonline.org/wp-admin/post-new.php?ip-geo-block-auth-nonce=44802c5fd7

380,000 New Graduates Heading for a Lifetime of Underemployment
August 28, 2019
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Almost half of the class of 2019 in the UK won’t get a graduate-level job and will remain underemployed, latest figures show. 

The state of the graduate market, 2019: 

  • About 800 000 will graduate this year in the UK (HESA, 2018).
  • 380 000 of them will be underemployed, taking jobs that do not require a degree (CIPD, 2017).
  • Of the 420 000 graduates who do land a graduate-level job, 250 000 will be within tech/digital and IT roles (Graduate Coach, 2019). 

This data has been compiled by Graduate Coach – the UK’s leading graduate coaching company. They have successfully coached 500+ students and graduates helping them to secure graduate-level jobs at a wide range of organisations including Deloitte, Google, IBM, The NHS and more. 

In response to these findings, Graduate Coach has collaborated with CV-Library to commission research to gain a better understanding of why graduates are struggling to find graduate jobs that match their level of education. 

A survey of 1500 graduates revealed: 

  • 90% found it difficult to work out what job would suit them best
  • 86% found it difficult to write a good CV
  • 85% find interviews difficult and nerve-wracking 
  • 85% admitted needing work experience before entering the workforce 

Chris Davies, the founder of Graduate Coach said: “This is a sad reality for the graduates and the country because it involves wasted potential.” 

He also reveals: “ there are three main reasons why the 48% of graduates will fail to get suitable work: They don’t know which careers will suit them best, they cannot write good achievement-based CVs and need to acquire interview skills.” 

Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), UK: August 2019
August 23, 2019
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Estimates of young people (aged 16 to 24 years) who are not in education, employment or training, by age and sex.

Main points

For April to June 2019:

  • There were 792,000 young people (aged 16 to 24 years) in the UK who were not in education, employment or training (NEET); this number increased by 28,000 from January to March 2019 and was up 14,000 when compared with April to June 2018.
  • The percentage of all young people in the UK who were NEET was 11.5%; the proportion was up 0.4 percentage points from January to March 2019 and up 0.3 percentage points from April to June 2018.
  • Of all young people in the UK who were NEET, 41.6% were looking for, and available for, work and therefore classified as unemployed; the remainder were either not looking for work and/or not available for work and therefore classified as economically inactive.

To read the full report follow the link below

https://bit.ly/31UR2Z7

Unemployment Fears at Five-Year High
August 15, 2019
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People in the UK are more worried about losing their jobs today than they have been at any point over the past five and a half years, according to the latest figures from the ONS.

The Personal and economic well-being in the UK: August 2019 report, released 12 August, found that confidence in job security is low. People’s expectations for increasing joblessness have been climbing, with the net proportion of people expecting rising unemployment rates in the year ahead reaching 23.1% in the first quarter of 2019, the highest level since the second quarter of 2013. These growing fears come despite UK employment currently standing at the joint-highest rate on record (76.1%), according to the latest Labour market overview published today (13 August).

While all economic wellbeing measures improved in the first quarter of 2019, including household income and wealth, “people’s expectations for the economy for the year ahead are that it will worsen”, the ONS reported.

This falling confidence comes as concerns are mounting that the UK will leave the European Union without a deal, with prime minister Boris Johnson vowing to leave “come what may” by 31 October. Meanwhile separate ONS figures last week, showing that the UK has witnessed the first fall in quarterly GDP in six and a half years, have sparked concerns that the UK could be headed for a recession.

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, said that economic and political uncertainty is causing UK employees to fear for their jobs.

“Prescient Brits have been expecting higher unemployment and for the general economic situation to deteriorate and, following last week’s negative GDP number, they may well be proved right,” she said.

“With a no-deal Brexit looming, the UK economy is arguably at its most crucial juncture for a decade and it’s no surprise people feel less secure about their jobs and the broader economic picture. In 10 weeks or so we could be entering the economic and political unknown and this uncertainty is understandably on people’s radars.”

The report also looked at personal wellbeing in the UK. Personal wellbeing showed very little change, with anxiety remaining stable in the year ending March 2019, the ONS said. The data found that almost one in five (19.8%) UK adults continued to report high levels of anxiety.

While people reported slightly higher happiness ratings, rising from 7.52 to 7.56 out of 10 in the last year, about 4.2 million people continued to report “low” levels of happiness.

Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire, told HR magazine that fears over employment and the economy are closely linked to personal wellbeing.

“Studies have found that job insecurity is one of the most profound and widespread workplace fears. It can be a major source of stress and anxiety for individuals and their families,” she said.

Nearly 10% of Adults Have Never Done Paid Work
March 5, 2019
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While UK employment is at record levels, there are still millions of people across the country who have never had a paid job reports the Office of National StatisticsOffice for National Statistics.

Around 3.6 million adults in the UK have never been paid for work, analysis has shown.

Of more than 41 million 16- to 64-year-olds in the UK, 75% were employed in July 2017 to June 2018, but there were still nearly 10% who had never done paid work.

Young people aged 16 to 24 years represent most of the population who have never had a paid job – 71% including students. Even excluding those in full-time study, more than half of people who have never carried out paid work are aged under 30 years (52%). Read more