PageGroup profits tumble 89% after Covid-19 batters jobs market

Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

Recruitment firm PageGroup has revealed that annual profits crashed 89% after the pandemic hammered the global jobs market.

The company reported pre-tax profits plunging to £15.5 million for 2020 from £144.2 million in 2019 after revenues slumped 21%.

It said the UK recruitment market and the Americas were the hardest hit of its global operations.

Gross profits in Britain – which accounts for 13% of group fees – tumbled 40% as Brexit worries ahead of the year-end deal deadline also weighed on the jobs sector, leaving the division nursing operating losses of £10.3 million.

But it said costs were slashed in response to the coronavirus crisis, with nearly 1,300 jobs axed and many employees taking 20% salary cuts.

It cut 15% of its fee-earner jobs worldwide, although the headcount was 882 lower at the end of 2020 after taking account of around 400 experienced hires.

Despite the impact of the crisis on its bottom line, PageGroup said it ended the year with a strong balance sheet and announced that it would repay £3.4 million of furlough support as a result.

It added that it would restart paying dividends to shareholders “as market conditions improve and greater clarity over the trading outlook is restored”.

Chief executive Steve Ingham said: “As we enter 2021, there remains a high degree of global macro-economic uncertainty in many of our markets, with Covid-19 still a significant global issue and a number of the group’s markets in lockdown.

“However, in the UK we are encouraged that the Brexit deal and the recent Government announcements about lockdown easing have provided a degree of clarity.”

The results showed that the UK division saw gross profits decline 44% across the lower salary Page Personnel brand, with a 39% drop for Michael Page, which is focused on more senior jobs.

PageGroup said: “There remains opportunity to roll out new discipline businesses under the lower salary-level Page Personnel brand, which now represents 24% of UK gross profit.”

Its UK headcount dropped 11.4% to 1,175 at the end of December 2020, with fee-earner roles cut by 105.