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Spring/Summer 2024 UK & Ireland Labour Landscape Overview: Exploring Macro Trends

Sam Smith | April 4 2024 |

Kees Stroomer

In the last year, Europe’s labour market witnessed remarkable shifts, charting new territory despite global economic challenges. In Q1 2024, key indicators showcase a resilient landscape and dynamic changes that underscore both challenges and opportunities.

To help organisations navigate this volatile labour market amidst inflation, geopolitical tensions and talent shortages, Magnit analysed billions of data points for our “Spring/Summer 2024 Europe Labour Market Report,” examining a variety of metrics across multiple countries and analysing data year over year, focused on professional and technology job roles.

Magnit’s analysis uncovered several key trends that are shaping the overall European market and driving the recent cautionary approach. Findings include:

  • Record Lows for Unemployment: 2023 commenced with the EU unemployment rate at an unprecedented low of 6.1% and reached a historic 5.9% by year’s end, a remarkable feat given the previous decade's double-digit rates.
  • Wage Increases Vary Widely: Low unemployment and elevated job vacancies spurred nominal wage growth of 3.5% across the EU, but figures differed significantly by country.
  • AI Technology Adoption Rises: Europe made strides in AI adoption and the job market shifted accordingly, with Magnit data indicated emerging high demand for AI-related roles including data engineers, machine learning engineers and AI product owners.

Beyond exploring the intricate dynamics shaping Europe as a whole, our report also takes a deeper dive into several key countries, including the United Kingdom and Ireland. Here’s a look at the landscape in these nations:

UK/Ireland Macro Environment

A tumultuous economic environment has caused volatility in the employment markets in both the UK and Ireland. Ongoing global conflicts, persistent economic uncertainty, rising energy prices, and changes in inflation and interest rates have collectively fueled rising costs and contributed to decreased hiring.

With fewer job openings and more workers available, the UK job market is becoming more competitive. Meanwhile, the Irish job market has slowed down from the accelerated hiring in 2021-22, especially in the technology industry, a key sector alongside pharmaceuticals.

Interest rates are impacting both regions, delaying investments, impacting liquidity and reducing potential for growth across industries.

Hiring activity for both full-time and contingent roles is declining, according to data from KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. The estimated number of vacancies in the UK decreased 5% in Q4 2023 — the 18th straight period of decline — and vacancies have continued to fall through early 2024.

In-Demand Skills

The UK has seen a sharp rise in the use of AI technologies, which has driven the need for experts in AI and machine learning (ML). This is in line with the government’s plan to establish the UK as a global leader in utilizing AI to improve people’s quality of life. Sought-after skills in global software sales, cloud services, and managed security expertise reflect the strategic priorities of businesses negotiating a technologically driven market.

In Ireland, a housing crisis has driven up demand for workers with construction skills. Other notable developments include:

  • An increased need for engineers, especially those specialised in validation and automation engineering, within the technology sector
  • High demand for professionals with expertise in data analytics, data science, and project management using agile methodologies
  • An emphasis in the pharmaceutical industry on skills such as microbiology and chemistry method testing, particularly within biopharmaceutical operations

Other Trends

In early 2024, the UK bounced back from a 3.6% fall in wage growth in Q3 2023, posting a year-over-year salary increase of 5.5% in February 2024. Ireland, on the other hand, saw more sluggish wage growth, reaching 3.7% by the end of 2023, which was less than the Eurozone average.

In addition to salary, job candidates take a variety of factors into account when evaluating opportunities, including remote work policies, holiday entitlements, pension contributions, and opportunities for professional advancement. Retaining a positive work/life balance is a constant goal, and flexibility is key.

Three-fifths (60%) of workers in the region have flexible working arrangements – up from 51% who reported this in a similar survey a year earlier – underscoring the growing importance of offering flexible working options in attracting and retaining talent.

Get the Full Report

Along with bill rates for key job titles in the UK and Ireland, our new “Spring/Summer 2024 Europe Labour Market Report” also explores additional high-level trends throughout Europe. We also delve further into market conditions in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Download the report now to learn much more.

Disclaimer: The content in this blog post is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice. The blog post reflects the opinion of Magnit and is not to be construed as legal solutions and positions. Contact an attorney for specific advice and guidance for specific issues or questions.

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