News & views

UK recruitment industry grows by 27% each year since 2008 

Date Posted: 12 October, 2021

Ever wondered how many recruitment agencies there actually are in the UK? You’d be hard-pressed to keep up, as data from Companies House shows that the number of active recruitment agencies in the UK has grown by an average of 27% every year between 2008 and 2018.


This means an enormous 32,886 agencies have entered the market since 2008, employing more than 115,000 recruitment professionals and support staff.


The start of the industry’s growth came in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, when unemployment shot up to its highest level in nearly 20 years. Demand for recruitment services increased, to help a peak of 2.7 million unemployed people find work. While turnover temporarily dropped – in line with the knock-on effect felt by all industries following the recession – it rebounded again by 2011.


Recruitment weathers the Covid-19 storm 


Just like the years immediately following the economic crash of 2008, recruitment has had another major shock to recover from recently – the coronavirus pandemic. But how has that affected industry growth?


Data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) found that the sector managed to grow its economic contribution to a huge £42.3 billion just before the pandemic struck. However, during the worst of the crisis, revenue fell by as much as 20%.


The REC’s CEO Neil Carberry explains that the gains made in 2019 put the industry in good shape to survive the pandemic and make a strong, quick recovery. He said:


“The year leading up to the pandemic was challenging. Economic uncertainty ahead of the Brexit General Election and a slowing global economy made progress difficult. It’s a testament to recruiters’ resilience that they grew their contribution to the economy by a huge 8% to £42.3bn in 2019. They helped over a million people into permanent roles before the pandemic, and had just under one million staff out on temporary placements every day. That hard work put the industry in good shape going into lockdown.”


UK now has the third largest recruitment sector in the world


While there is clearly lots of hard work to be done to bounce back from Covid-19, the UK’s recruitment sector has much to be proud of.


According to the World Employment Confederation (WEC) Economic Report 2020, the UK has the third biggest recruitment industry on the planet. Beaten only by the USA and Japan in overall global standings, the UK remains the largest market in Europe and the fourth-largest market in the world for permanent recruitment. The report also found that:


  • The UK is responsible for nearly 10% of all placements in Europe
  • The US, UK and Japanese markets combined make up 54% of global sales revenues for agency recruitment
  • Agency work accounts for 80% of the UK’s total recruitment sales revenue.


Ready to join this fast-growing sector? Find your next challenge in recruitment with RGH, and our collaborative network of leaders, entrepreneurs, SMEs and talented teams. Get in touch here