UK retail jobs in the firing line as coronavirus hits

A dpd local delivery driver takes a parcel from his van in Shepshed, Britain June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

British recruiters expect widespread job losses for temporary staff in the retail, hospitality and travel sectors and reduced hiring for permanent jobs across the economy as the coronavirus hits the country.

“At the start of the year … there was massive optimism. Now the crisis has come and kiboshed that,” Tom Hadley, policy director at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, told Reuters.

He held an online meeting with more than 200 of the trade association’s members on Friday. Some 80 percent of them expected the crisis to hurt hiring in the short term, with 35% predicting a major impact.

For certain sectors the prospects are darker.

“Some of our members, in sectors like hospitality, office admin are really struggling,” Hadley said. “Demand is not going to be there, especially for hospitality. Events are being cancelled. People are not going out.”

Some retailers were struggling too, he added, highlighting the Bicester Village designer fashion outlet north of London, which had previously been very popular with Chinese tourists.

The Bank of England cited anecdotal evidence of a slowdown in retail as one reason for its emergency interest rate cut on Wednesday. The government has promised help for businesses hurt by sick pay bills.

Until now, Britain’s job market has been robust with a record proportion of people in work in the final quarter of 2019.

But the economy as a whole has remained in a fragile state, with zero economic growth in the three months to January.

Some workers, however, are in increased demand.

Adverts for delivery drivers on job site Indeed were 35 percent higher over the past week than in late January, according to Pawel Adrjan, the site’s head of research for Europe.

This was “probably in the expectation that home deliveries of food and necessities will rise,” he said.

Adverts for roles in the travel and hotel sector were down by 8%, and food and beverage industry job adverts also declined.

The REC’s Hadley predicted continued appetite for temporary staff, other than in hospitality and retail, due to a shortage of health and social care workers and a need to cover staff absence due to sickness.

But he saw a hiatus in permanent recruitment on the way.

“The freeze might be more on the perm side, putting things on hold. You’re not sure what is going to happen.”