"You know the downturn is bad when even the headhunters are firing," said the FT's Lex column. Recruitment firm Michael Page said it had shed a third of its own staff in the last 12 months as UK fee income dropped by almost 50% year-on-year. Chief executive Stephen Ingham said he is still "anticipating a challenging third quarter" as demand for permanent staff keeps falling, although a smaller (2.8%) quarter-on-quarter fall hints some kind of bottoming out may be near, said Lex.
But don't get too optimistic if you're looking for a job in the City, said Alistair Cox, chief executive of rival Hays. "Those jobs are gone and they're not coming back anytime soon." His firm has placed half as many people in financial roles this year as last, and there are three times the usual number of applicants for each role. "There may be some recruitment to high-end roles in investment banking but it's very sporadic and very, very niche." Realistically, those who have lost their jobs should be thinking about retraining.
Of course, there's always another boom coming and this time it may be in watchdogs. As a result of the financial crisis, "there's going to be more compliance and regulation", said Ingram. "That's good for us because we specialise in compliance and risk. When I hear about more regulation, I think good more accountants." Still, a less glamorous job as a regulator may be a bitter pill to swallow for aspiring bankers.
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