Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Sunday, 3 January 2010

What employment prospects lie ahead in 2010?

By Shanaz Musafer
Business reporter, BBC News

City workers
The fear of redundancy cast a shadow over many workers in 2009

"2009 was the year of fear."

So says John Salt, director at the recruitment website Totaljobs.

A year of fear on the jobs market, for both employers and employees.

"Many firms have tended to be very conservative in their staffing decisions," he says.

These conservative decisions - job cuts, recruitment freezes - have helped push the unemployment rate in the UK up to 7.9%, with almost 2.5 million people out of work.

Competition for jobs has inevitably increased. At the end of 2008, Totaljobs was receiving about five applications for every job posted. A year later, that figure had almost doubled.

So if 2009 was the year of fear, what's in store in 2010?

Austerity, according to John Salt.

"A sense of cautious optimism is now building," he says.

For anyone looking for any "green shoots" of recovery in the latest unemployment statistics, there may be a glimmer hope.

Although unemployment is still increasing, the rate at which it is doing so is slowing.

Offering innovation

Employers have also faced a delicate balancing act, juggling trying to keep their best staff with trying to keep costs down in the recession.

Keith Dugdale, KPMG
More forward-looking employers are looking at more flexible working patterns
Keith Dugdale, director of global recruitment, KPMG

"More forward-looking employers are looking at more flexible working patterns," says Keith Dugdale, director of global recruitment at the accountancy firm KPMG.

"We would use much more creative ways of working, offering different types of contracts."

Even a brand as big as Google has to make itself look an attractive option to jobseekers.

"One of the key things people look for is innovation," says the internet giant's head of recruitment, Luke McKend

Looking to the year ahead, Mr Dugdale ponders whether firms will reap the benefit of offering more creative ways of working in the long term.

"It will be interesting to see whether some of the things people [employers] have done to hang on to their talent promotes any loyalty."

One thing KPMG is looking at is the notion of rehiring former workers to make use of their experience.

"We are putting a lot of effort into alumni activities," Mr Dugdale says.

Graduate opportunities

One area that is a cause of concern is the increase in youth unemployment.

The number of 16-to-24-year-olds out of work is at a record high of 952,000.

We are working very closely with universities. We have a much more relationship-based approach
Luke McKend, head of recruitment, Google

And university leavers have not been helped by the decision taken by some companies, such as BT, to close their graduate recruitment schemes.

But there are still opportunities out there.

KPMG, for instance, is taking on more people in their graduate recruitment programme, while Google says it is constantly looking for the brightest talent.

"We are working very closely with universities," says Luke McKend.

"We have a much more relationship-based approach."

However, he admits to being surprised at the "level of naivety" among first-time jobseekers.

"People doing MBAs are astonished to find employers will look at their LinkedIn profile," he says.

Public sector 'values'

Totaljobs website
Totaljobs sees about 10 applications for every job posted on its site

According to Keith Dugdale, one of the main issues facing a global firm such as KPMG is getting the right people in the right places.

"The really big challenge for us is getting the talent where the business needs it the most. The growing area for us is in emerging markets."

He adds that a lot of people like what they see in the public sector, not just in terms of perceived job security, but the values they associate with it.

This may have something to do with an increase in people looking for jobs in the public sector.

According to Totaljobs, one third of those whose last job was in banking were looking for local authority jobs and nearly a quarter of those who were, or are, working in construction were doing the same.

But they may be facing a shrinking sector this year.

Totaljobs says there has been a 21% decline in public sector jobs from September to November 2009 against earlier in the year, and it predicts that there will be a "post-election recession" in the public sector in 2010.

Mr Salt believes that the contraction will take place, regardless of who wins the election, as the government will need to make cuts.

2009 may have been tough on the private sector, but it may well be the public sector that feels the pain in 2010.

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