Employers are taking longer to hire new staff and candidates are more reluctant to change jobs in the current uncertain economic climate, especially in the United States, United Kingdom and China, according to updates from British recruiters.
London-listed Hays on Thursday joined peers Robert Walters and PageGroup in flagging low client and candidate activity, dragging its quarterly fees down 2%.
But strength in parts of Europe such as Germany have given the recruiters respite and confidence they would be able to offset tough market conditions in countries such as the United States and in sectors such as technology.
"Despite macroeconomic uncertainties, our key markets remain characterised by skill shortages and wage inflation," Hays CEO Alistair Cox said in a statement.
Shares in Hays were down 1% in early trade.
"History has shown these (staffing) stocks tend to move early and typically outperform into the teeth of the worst economic news/uncertainty," analysts at RBC said in a note.
Recruiters have flagged low confidence and a weaker market as a grim economic outlook led some employers to freeze hiring and turn to temporary workers.
Hays cut its workforce by 3% in the quarter, mirroring Page and Robert Walters which also reduced their number of consultants.
Hays, which operates in 32 countries and focuses largely on hiring for white-collar roles, said its like-for-like net fees for the three months ended June 30 fell by 2%, with fees from its largest segment, technology, down 3%.
Robert Walters said last Thursday technology companies have trimmed workforces, denting the recruiter with large tech players in the United States and mainland China also showing poor demand amidst uncertain economic conditions.
While volumes in temporary hiring, Hays' largest business, rose 4%, the permanent division contracted 9% in the quarter.
Official data on Tuesday showed signs of loosening in the British labour market as the unemployment rate rose unexpectedly in the three months to May with wages hitting a joint highest growth rate on record alongside April's growth.
Hays said full-year 2023 operating profit is expected to be in line with market expectations. (Reporting by Prerna Bedi and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)