(Alliance News) - Shares in PageGroup PLC fell on Monday after the recruiter said the slow market conditions seen at the end of last year had continued into 2024.

PageGroup is a Weybridge, England-based recruitment company. Shares in the company fell 5.0% to 459.80 pence each in London on Monday morning.

PageGroup said gross profit in the three months to March fell 13% to GBP219.7 million from GBP263.0 million the year prior.

Chief Executive Nicholas Kirk said the slower end to the fourth quarter continued into the first quarter of 2024, particularly within continental Europe.

"Overall, activity levels remain strong, however we experienced a slight deterioration in job flow towards the end of the quarter."

"Conversion of final interviews to accepted offers is still the most significant challenge, as candidate and client sentiment remains subdued reflecting the general macro-economic uncertainty in most of our markets," he continued.

Kirk said permanent recruitment was more impacted than temporary across all markets, as clients continue to "seek more flexible options."

But while he anticipates a period of "low confidence levels, based on our current outlook," Kirk intends to hold fee earner headcount broadly at existing levels to "ensure we are well placed to take advantage of opportunities as sentiment and confidence improve."

PageGroup said it exited the quarter with March down 18% on 2023, "albeit this was against a tough comparator and was impacted by the reduced number of working days in March due to the timing of Easter."

PageGroup said gross profit fell 13% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, by 5.5% in the Americas, by 16% in Asia Pacific and by 19% in the UK.

Trading conditions in Asia, the UK and the US saw no improvement with low levels of client and candidate confidence continuing to delay time to hire, particularly in permanent recruitment, the company stated.

PageGroup said as clients' recruitment budgets have tightened, they have become more "risk averse", which has slowed the recruitment process.

Salary levels remain strong, but offers made to candidates were not as elevated as they were in 2022 and early 2023, PageGroup added.

PageGroup will issue second quarter results on July 10.

By Jeremy Cutler, Alliance News reporter

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