A record number of UK recruitment agency company registrations took place in 2018, taking the total number of agencies to 39,329.

Latest data from Companies House reveals 8,488 agencies registered in 2018, a 46% increase on 2017.

  • 46% year-on-year increase in company registrations (8,488 in 2018, 5,824 in 2017)
  • 39,329 recruitment agencies registered since 1980
  • 84% of all recruitment agency company registrations in the UK took place in the last decade (2008-18)
  • 115,000 people employed in the recruitment industry

In our UK recruitment industry: a decade of growth 2008 – 2018 article we examined some of the key reasons that have enabled this accelerated growth. Easier and faster access to finance, rapid smartphone adoption, social media and SaaS growth all contributed to make the barriers of entry lower and the market more accessible for recruitment entrepreneurs.

A decade of recruitment growth


UK recruitment industry growth

Despite continued Brexit uncertainty, the recruitment industry grew its valuation by 11% to £35.7 billion in 2018 according to the REC. As UK wages accelerated to their fastest pace since 2008 (up by 3.3% for the three months to October 2018), both perm and contract enjoyed increased placement value, with contract growing 20% and perm 6%.

  • The REC’s annual Recruitment Industry Trends report for 2017/18 showed that the total industry turnover from permanent and temporary/contract placements, and other HR services, reached £35.7 billion, an increase of 11 per cent on 2017
  • 86% of the UK recruitment industry turnover is comprised of contract and temporary placements.
  • The average value of permanent placements from the wider recruitment industry was £4,238 (up by 6.4 per cent on the average in 2016/17)
  • The average annualised turnover of each temporary/contract worker on assignment was £34,976 (up 20 per cent on the average in 2016/17)


UK employment growth

In December 2018, figures released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the UK continues to have the best jobs market in decades with the unemployment rate at a near-record 40 year low, 4.1% and employment rate at a joint-record of 75.7%.

  • Record 32.5 million people are employed
  • A total of 849,000 jobs were unfilled in September-November 2018, compared with 809,000 in 2017
  • Since 2010, 3.3 million people have entered work, at an average of 1,000 people every day
  • Average wages including bonuses rose 3.3% year-on-year, which was the biggest increase since the May to July period of 2008


UK economic growth in 2019

As many key forecasts for the UK economy in 2018 proved to be broadly accurate, 2019 sentiment is much more mixed. Depressed consumer confidence and companies holding back on making big decisions about their futures is contributing to multiple growth forecasts for different Brexit outcomes. According to the Financial Times, the average growth forecast is 1.5%, slightly higher than The Office for Budget Responsibility, which estimates growth will drop to 1.3% in 2018.


Discover everything you need to know about entering, scaling and thriving in the hot UK contract recruitment market.


UK industries forecast to grow in 2019


UK biotech firms raised more than £1.5 billion in 2018, exceeding the total raised in 2017. Reports of a US-based fund planning to invest $1 billion and the British Business Bank announced the creation of a £2.5bn British Patient Capital fund will help to grow the sector overall.


The UK space industry adds £7 billion to the economy, supports 70,000 jobs, and is growing four times faster than the rest of the UK economy. 7% of the global space market – a market forecast to be worth £543 billion by 2020.


Despite extreme price volatility and regulatory uncertainty, the number of crypto jobs in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector rose 300% in 2018

Creative Industries

The sector contributes more than a quarter of a billion pounds to the UK every day and added 80,000 jobs in 2018.


Research by Innovative Finance predicts the sector will exceed 100,000 employees by 2030, creating 30,000 new jobs, while the number of companies will more than double to 3,300.