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London job seekers optimistic after decisive election

Morgan McKinley’s 2019 Q4 London Employment Monitor suggests job seekers are banking on a new decade bringing new opportunities, says Hakan Enver.

Hakan Enver
Chart: Financial Services jobs new to the market quarter on quarter
Chart: Professionals jobseekers new to the market quarter on quarter: Q1 2017 - Q4 2019

March 2020

2019 was a gruesome year, with historic job losses and the constant economic insecurity that came with Brexit. But 2020 will mark a turnabout for the City. You could hear a collective sigh of relief across London when the election results came in. Everyone is sick and tired of Brexit and eager to put it in the rearview mirror where it belongs.”

The silver lining of Brexit dragging on for so long is that businesses have spent over two years preparing for a worst-case scenario. It was unpleasant and it was costly, but they are ready. There isn’t much the divorce can throw our way that can’t be handled.

Job seekers are on the front lines of the job market, which is why it is so encouraging to see them aggressively looking for the next opportunity. Clearly confidence in the economy is rebounding now that EU citizens already in the country have the security of knowing they can stay. We are even seeing more Britons from the EU returning home to look for their next professional opportunity

Morgan McKinley’s Q4 London Employment Monitor details City hiring trends from October through December 2019. The fourth quarter of the year saw uncharacteristically brisk movement among candidates, with a 38% month-on-month increase in job seekers from November to December, and a rise of 24% when compared to December 2018.

This movement came on the heels of a 12% increase in jobs available in the third quarter of the year, and after voters delivered a resounding mandate to bring years of Brexit uncertainty to a close in the new year.

London Employment Monitor Winter 2019 highlights:

  • 29% decrease in jobs available, quarter-on-quarter and 42% decrease in jobs available, year-on-year
  • 22% decrease in job seekers, quarter-on-quarter and 31% decrease in job seekers, year-on-year
  • 6% month-on-month increase in jobs available from November to December
  • 38% month-on-month increase in job seekers from November to December
  • 24% year-on-year increase in job seekers from December 2018

Despite a 6% month-on-month increase in jobs in November, fewer jobs were released in the fourth quarter, and were down by 29% quarter-on-quarter. The decrease aligns with the traditional end-of-year closing out of budgets and slowing of business as organisations put hiring off until the new year. Nevertheless, the 42% decrease from Q4 2018 highlights Brexit’s stubborn grip on City jobs.

With the government now moving full speed ahead with Brexit, questions about equivalence, passporting and trade between the UK and the EU remain unanswered. However, with businesses having had a number of years to prepare, lingering in the bloc is considered a bigger economic burden than departure. 

And with wildfires ravaging Australia, protests engulfing Hong Kong, military tensions bubbling in the Middle East and the US China trade wars showing minimal signs of abatement, resolving Brexit now pales in comparison to other global challenges.

In addition to candidate optimism, other signs point to the new decade bringing new opportunities: the December KPMG and REC Jobs Report showed UK hiring conditions improved towards the end of the otherwise challenging year, with permanent placements rising for the first time in a year. The report shows employers increasingly concerned about the ability to recruit top talent, a trend reflected in rising salaries across the financial services industry.

Hakan Enver is managing director of Morgan McKinley Financial Services

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