HR vacancies fall as companies look to pare back hiring

Job vacancies within HR have dropped significantly both year-on-year and in Q4 2022, according to new research from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), the trade association for the professional recruitment sector. 

The data, provided by Broadbean Technology, revealed that HR job vacancies were down by 35.2% in March 2023 when compared to the same point last year, with notable drop-offs also identified in both January (36.2% year-on-year) and February (35.4%).

While firms invested in, and heavily relied on, the skills of HR specialists during the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, the data suggests that many employers are reducing hiring in this area as wider economic pressures begin to take hold.

However, a slight uptick in vacancy numbers was noted in March, highlighting that many businesses may be experiencing renewed confidence as a result of slight improvements within the economy.

While application numbers have also fallen, the application per vacancy rate (APV) has remained strong, which is good news for employers still looking to hire HR professionals.

The drop in numbers would suggest that there is a degree of caution on the part of candidates to move roles as they consider their job security given the tough economic landscape.

There was also some positivity regarding salaries as pay for HR professionals has risen marginally.

However, this increase remains below the inflationary rate which could lead to many specialists being forced into changing roles to seek better pay.

APSCo has warned that, if employers can’t offer higher base salaries to help ease cost-of-living pressures, then they must seek to offer improved benefits and other financial perks if they want to retain their top HR talent

Ann Swain, Global CEO at APSCo, said, “As hiring begins to slow, we are experiencing an expected dip in demand for HR professionals.

“However, it’s interesting to note that March saw a slight uptick which is perhaps indicative of the confidence boost that the Chancellor’s Budget announcement seemingly initiated across the UK.

“Given the cost-of-living crisis that is still impacting the country, it is disappointing to note that average salaries in the profession have flatlined. This will likely have a longer-term impact on skills retention as staff look to new employment routes to access better pay.”

Jen Gaster, Founder and Managing Director of HR recruitment agency HR Heads, added, “HR recruitment activity in March was notably busier than the preceding months of 2023, and, at HR Heads, we have seen this trend continue into April with a steady increase in recruitment activity across the function.

“It is not surprising to see an increased demand for Reward and EVP specialists, as businesses seek to alleviate the cost of living crisis that is affecting so many people.

“Many of the leading organisations we are partnering with are using innovative approaches to their rewards strategies and the best HR professionals in this specialist area continue to be in high demand.

“Finally, when application numbers drop, professional recruitment agencies are able to show their incredible value to organisations struggling to attract talent.

“With well-nurtured and deep networks of passive candidates, those not actively seeking their next opportunity, the best recruiters will still be sought over to ease HR talent challenges moving forward.”