This article was updated 02 January 2019 to reflect 2018 figures

The UK recruitment industry shows no signs of slowing down. Having grown consistently since 2010, it is continuing its reputation as a leading industry in the UK.

To bring some context to these statements, we’ve taken a look back over last year to highlight the ways in which the UK Recruitment industry has progressed significantly.

How fast has the UK recruitment industry grown?

In 2018 alone, Companies House recorded the launch of 8,488 new recruitment businesses, which was a 46% increase on the previous year.

The following statistics were also recorded, further highlighting just how successful the Recruitment industry has been to date:

  • 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

Since 1971, employment rates in the UK have slowly improved. And recently, they have been on a continuous incline. This graph, created by The Office of National Statistics, highlights the increase we have seen since 2010:

UK recruitment industry growth chart


Self-employment and the UK recruitment industry

Self-employment played a key part in this growth, with 2017 showing record levels of people choosing this way of working. The ONS Labour Market Statistics showed that 15% of the working population were self-employed. In numbers, that’s an impressive 4.88 million people.

To add to this, between August and October alone, the number of self-employed people increased by 50,000 to 4.81 million. That works out at 15% of all people in work.

What’s more, the number of people who choose this way of working has increased by over 47%, highlighting how attractive self-employment is.


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


So what’s the future of the UK recruitment industry looking like?

Despite an extremely volatile political and economic climate, the UK Recruitment industries saw a total revenue of £35.7 billion in 2018. The vast majority of this was achieved through temporary and contract recruitment. It contributed to 86% of that figure (£30.85 billion), compared to the 14% (£4.84 billion) generated through permanent placements.

Recent research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reveals that 67% of UK staffing agencies are forecasting an increase in revenue of 60%, compared to 2017. The research also predicted that the number of contract recruitment businesses will grow to 17%.

In five years…

When we sat down with Toby Babb, the CEO of Harrington Starr, we asked him what patterns or trends he thought we might see in the UK Recruitment industry over the next five years.

“What’s obvious is that there will be more technology in recruitment, that’s for sure. We’re always considering how we can use data, technology and artificial intelligence to make better decisions for our customers. I also think we will see the industry lean more and more towards RPO. I think recruiters will need to increase their true consultancy offering and be faster, better and stronger.

I think recruitment over the next five years will continue to thrive as a professional industry. We’re going to have to be better with technology, have proper market experience and there will be more social recruitment and digital techniques that come through that people will need to adapt to.”

Industries expected to experience growth in 2019

  • UK biotech firms raised more than £1.5 billion in 2018, exceeding the total raised in 2017.
  • 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.
  • Despite extreme price volatility and regulatory uncertainty, the number of crypto jobs in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector rose 300% in 2018
  • The creative industry 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 Fintech 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.

If you’re considering joining the UK recruitment industry…

If you are were considering launching your own recruitment business, now is the time to do it. Advances in digitalisation and a more dynamic UK job market is making it easier and more accessible than ever to set up a business.

With the predictions of another wave of new agencies launching this year, the competition will get stiffer. Luckily, to combat this, the amount of resources and support available to help you has also increased – and it’s the smart recruitment agencies who will take advantage of these.

As the UK’s leading provider of finance and technology to recruitment businesses, Sonovate is best placed to support and guide new and established businesses.

This article was updated 02 January 2019