The latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a continued downward trend in the jobs market, with the rate of people out of work now standing at 7.8 per cent.
According to the August 12th report, the level of employment in the UK during the April to June period was down by 0.9 per cent compared to the first quarter of the year.
Men are apparently suffering more as a result of the recession, with the number of male workers in employment down by 1.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter, while the rate for women fell by 0.5 per cent.
Although unemployment rose by 220,000 to 2.44 million over the last three months, this figure was not as bad as some had feared and the ONS report also showed that the pace of redundancies slowed compared to the previous three months.
“Reading the latest jobs market data alongside the Bank of England’s updated forecast for the UK economy is rather like looking at a British summer weather chart – very few bright spots amid a welter of depressing gloom,” said Dr John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
One of these “bright spots” is the professional services sector, which recent research suggested could be one of the first to recover from the recession.
Asset-based lender Venture Finance surveyed 1,000 accountants, asking them to rank their clients based on how much pressure they were under, with one indicating little anxiety and five suggesting high stress.
The professional services sector, which includes accounting and bookkeeping businesses, was rated as the most stable, with an average score of 3.11.
“It is important to recognise that although it remains a difficult time for UK businesses, there are positive signs which should not be ignored,” said Peter Ewen, managing director of Venture Finance.
Nick Tout, director of Hays Accountancy and Finance, confirmed that the recruitment firm has seen increased demand for book-keeping, management accounting and analysis experience.
“Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are bringing their accounting function in-house, which is driving the need for bookkeepers,” he explained.
Businesses are also seeking accounts assistants and people who are in the early stages of studying bookkeeping courses or the likes of accounting courses as employers are wanting to invest in and develop staff for the future, according to Mr Tout.
“The insurance and public sectors are showing the most resilience; insurance is doing well due to an increase in companies insuring their assets in the current economic climate,” he added.
When it comes to securing a job in the current climate, it is vital that people in the bookkeeping and accountancy sectors continue to undergo training to increase their expertise, according to Mr Tout.
“It is important that accounting professionals show commitment to their chosen career path and a willingness to continually upskill,” he said.
Many novices start by undertaking a basic bookkeeping course before moving on to gain further certificates through the likes of Pitman Training, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
Diplomas from ACCA or CIMA are “key” for more those in more senior positions such as financial and management accountants, according to Mr Tout.
“In the current climate, it is crucial that professionals have a balance of qualifications and experience and can really demonstrate their added value to a company,” he explained.
For those who have completed their accounting and book-keeping courses and are now looking for a job, Mr Tout advised they make sure their CVs list all responsibilities and achievements.
“When it comes to interviews, prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more.
The jobs market is competitive and you must now tick 95 per cent of the boxes.
Know the job specification inside and out and thoroughly research the organisation,” he recommended.
Mr Tout also suggested that bookkeeping specialists are also flexible on location and sector.
“We are seeing professionals who are now actively seeking a new challenge rather than being forced to move through redundancies, reflecting growing confidence in the market,” he concluded.