Marketers are feeling optimistic about employment prospects as the UK’s lockdown restrictions ease, following a year marred by redundancies and furlough.

The outlook for marketing jobs is looking positive for the first time since the end of 2019, according to new research created exclusively for Marketing Week.

After a year that saw the Covid-19 pandemic wreak havoc on the jobs market as companies made substantial cuts in hopes of weathering the storm, the latest data from the IPA Bellwether Report shows the majority of marketers expect job cuts to be at an end.

Overall, a net balance of 17.9% of respondents foresee a rise in employment this quarter. Indeed, almost a third (29.9%) of respondents expect to see higher staffing levels within their company, the highest proportion since the second quarter of 2017.

More than half (58.1%) expect to maintain their existing workforce this quarter, while just 12% are anticipating further cuts. In comparison, 22.9% forecasted headcount reductions in the fourth quarter of 2020, while 21.8% were predicting increases.

Do you expect overall employment to be higher, the same or lower at your company in 3 months’ time compared to current levels?

Higher Same Lower Net +/-
Q4 2019 22.9% 59.0% 18.0% +4.9%
Q1 2020 17.3% 51.5% 31.2% -13.9%
Q2 2020 5.2% 39.4% 55.5% -50.3%
Q3 2020 12.4% 43.8% 43.8% -31.5%
Q4 2020 21.8% 55.3% 22.9% -1.2%
Q1 2021 29.9% 58.1% 12.0% +17.9%

The last time marketers felt positive about job prospects was in the final quarter of 2019, when a net balance of 4.9% of respondents said they expected to increase headcount. Since then, with the onset of the pandemic, the outlook has been consistently negative.

At its worst point, in the second quarter of last year, a net balance of -50.3% were anticipating job cuts.

The Bellwether suggests one key factor behind the sharp upturn in employment expectations for this quarter has been the release of the UK’s roadmap to relaxing lockdown restrictions.

“The announcement has enabled businesses to look past the current lockdown and begin planning for the reopening of the wider economy,” the report says. “This is set to help improve demand conditions, which will inevitably lead to job creation.”

Earlier this year, the 2021 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey painted a grim picture of the impact Covid-19 has had on marketers’ careers. One in 10 marketers were made redundant over 2020, while 12.7% were put on furlough.

Marketers also found themselves having to make compromises on everything from progression to working hours. Of the 2,543 respondents to the survey, 11.7% reported having had a promotion delayed or made unlikely, a fifth (20.3%) took a cut to their wage or bonus package, and 7.7% had their hours reduced, greatly impacting their earning potential.

The data also suggested a sense of concern among marketers that their experience of the pandemic will have a big impact on their careers long term, with almost a third of respondents (30.9%) believing that being made redundant or furloughed will have far-reaching consequences.

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