Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Clear industry and regional divide in job advert recovery

In December 2020 there were around 1.77 million active job adverts in the UK, an increase of 10.5% on the previous year.

  • 1.77 million active job adverts in the UK in December 2020, an increase of 10.5% from December 2019
  • Significant increase in job adverts for roles in healthcare and construction, while hospitality and leisure industries continue to struggle
  • Regional growth led by Wales and north-west England, while London’s jobs market lags behind

In December 2020 there were around 1.77 million active job adverts in the UK, an increase of 10.5% on the previous year. A number of factors, including pent-up demand for staff and an increase in the amount of time that employers are leaving job adverts open for, meant that the total number of job postings was notably higher than before COVID-19 hit the UK. However, these figures also show a clear divide in terms of which sectors and regions have been impacted most strongly by the pandemic.

With case numbers rising and more health restrictions being put in place to stop the virus, it is no surprise to see significantly higher numbers of job postings for health professionals like nurses (+62.7%), care workers (+25.8%) and radiographers (+71.3%) in December 2020 than a year earlier. There were also more adverts for environmental health professionals (+92.7%) as businesses and workplaces must comply with strict social distancing guidelines in order to stay open.

The number of postings for vets was more than double (+108.4%) what it was a year ago, perhaps due to potential changes in changes in food safety and animal welfare standards due to Brexit, and the number of people in the profession who come to the UK from the EU.

Skilled trades such as bricklayers (+92.9%), glaziers (+71.6%) and carpenters (+41.5%) also saw higher numbers of job adverts as construction sites remained open and home improvements could still take place. Delays to construction projects from earlier in 2020 may be pushing up posting numbers, as well as the effect of Brexit and restrictions on the right to work in the UK under the new immigration system.

The hospitality and leisure industries continued to be hit hard by the health restrictions. Among the occupations with the biggest drops in job posting numbers compared to the previous year were bar staff (-69.9%), travel agents (-58.9%), chefs (-58.2%), beauticians (-52.9%) and sports and leisure assistants (-49.8%). While the vaccine rollout brings some hope, it could be some time before recruitment activity returns to normal in these industries.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“There is a great deal of underlying strength in the jobs market, despite the tough economic circumstances of the current lockdown. The potential for a strong bounce-back after the vaccination programme is rolled out is there. Jobs are still being created all over the country. But it is no surprise that some sectors and regions like health, social care and construction are in the lead, while others, particularly hospitality and particularly London, are in desperate need of support.

“In that respect, the Chancellor’s statement on Monday was a missed opportunity. With strong underlying demand and the vaccine rolling out, we should focus on getting firms through – support for smaller owner-operated businesses who have so far missed out on support is key, as is returning furlough to the lower cost to business of Spring 2020, and delaying 2020 VAT repayments from April. These steps will help firms to get through and preserve jobs.”

There was also a clear disparity in which how different areas of the UK have recovered from the impact of COVID-19. Wales (+49.5%) and north-west England (+46.6%) registered notably higher numbers of job postings in December 2020 than December 2019, with almost 1.5 times as many job adverts as a year earlier. The number of job postings in Northern Ireland (+29.2%) and north-east England (+28.6%) was also higher than a year ago.

This growth contrasts strongly with the situation in London. The capital was the only major region which saw a year-on-year drop in job adverts (-4.7%), as businesses there continued to struggle due to social distancing measures, work-from-home policies and the closures of non-essential shops that have been put in place to combat the pandemic.

Matthew Mee, Director, Workforce Intelligence at Emsi, said:

“What seems apparent in our current data is that lockdown 3.0 is having a less dramatic impact on UK hiring activity than we saw in 2020. Whilst there are some sectors of the economy that are lagging, others are hiring aggressively and there appears to be greater business confidence, very likely linked to the ongoing vaccine roll-out. It’s interesting to note the year-on-year increase in demand for temporary and contract roles – which is up 26% compared to this time last year.

“Obviously with the Brexit deal being done and the new points-based immigration system now in place, it will be critical to monitor how this impacts hiring activity in the months ahead. Recruitment marketing activity will be a useful lead indicator of whether employers are successfully finding and mobilising the talent and skills they need.”