PageGroup saw profits improve in the second quarter as demand started to pick up around the world, the recruiter said on Wednesday.
Gross profit in the three months to 30 June was up 2% compared to 2019, at £219.7m, or ahead 94.1% against 2020. The firm is using comparisons in constant currency to 2019 to strip out the impact of the pandemic.
The biggest increases were seen in Asia Pacific, where gross profits rose 10.5% year-on-two-years, and the Americas, ahead 7.7%. Gross profits were off 9.0% in the UK, however.
Steve Ingham, chief executive, said: “I am pleased to report that the improvement in results we saw in the first quarter continued into April and May, both of which were down 3% on 2019, broadly in line with the exit rate in March. We then saw a significant improvement in June, which was up 11% on 2019.
“This noticeable improvement in the second quarter was seen throughout the group and was achieved despite the backdrop of continued restrictions or lockdowns in many of our markets.”
Looking to the full year, the owner of Michael Page forecast final operating profits in the range of £125m to £135m.
Ingham added: “There continues to be a high degree of global macro-economic uncertainty as Covid-19 remains a significant issue.
“Additionally, at this stage of the recovery, it is not easy to determine whether the improved performance is still the result of pent-up supply and demand, or a sustainable trend.
“However, and notwithstanding the early stage in the year, the strength of our performance in the first half, and noticeably in June, has further increased confidence in our outlook for the year.”
As at 0930 BST, shares in PageGroup were ahead 4% at 598.5p.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “PageGroup’s latest results suggest there is a serious hiring spree going on around the world, perhaps a mixture of reactivating jobs that were lost in the pandemic and companies feeling more confident to invest in the future.
“Interestingly, the UK is the standout category for negative reasons. Whereas income has soared from Germany and parts of Asia, the UK is down 9%.
“Anecdotally, in the UK there has been a shortage of people looking for their second or third job. They’ve lacked the confidence to move from their existing role for fear of being the last in, first out should there be any Covid-related setback which causes job cuts in the months ahead.”