Published byREC

Shortages keep job adverts above 1.7m as UK exits recession - REC

In a sign of continuing employer demand, the number of active job adverts remained above 1.7m, according to the latest Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Lightcast Labour Market Tracker.

  • The number of active postings in April 2024 was 1,731,378 – down on the number of postings in March 2024 but still above pre-pandemic levels. When compared to the same point last year (April 2023), active job postings are down by 36.2%.
  • There were 769,469 new job postings in April 2024 – a 9.9% decline from the month before and a 20.3% decline from the year before (April 2023), reflecting the slowdown we have seen through the recession, and the impact of the Easter break.   
  • Across the UK, Powys (+12.1%), Gwynedd (+6.6%) and Highland (+3.9%) had among the highest growth in job postings when compared to last month.
  • For the second month in a row, demand for workers in Mid and East Antrim, Argyll and Bute and Mid Ulster has increased.  

The Uk labour market is more constrained than it has been in the past, with demographic changes, long-term sickness and challenging early career paths all contributing to lower supply. Today’s data shows that, even in a mild recession, hiring activity did not fall in the way it might have in the past. While job advert numbers are dropping, they remain above the pre-pandemic norm. 

There were more than 1.7m active job postings in the UK, with 769,469 new job postings in April 2024. While active job postings show a decline of 9.4% compared to March, the total number staying above 1.7m for the past two years, except for the expected usual dip around Christmas, shows the resilience of demand. 

The pattern of new postings is the same as 2023, where similarly the number of postings declined in April as compared to March before increasing in May reflecting the Easter break and firms kicking off their hiring after the holidays have finished. 

REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry said:

“Business surveys, the growth figures and recent anecdote from REC members give us some grounds for optimism about the jobs market this summer, but that doesn't hide the trend of declining activity over the winter and spring as the labour market reacted to the recession. What is notable, however, is that ads remained relatively high by historic standards – even if lower than the post-pandemic years. This is a clear sign of the residual tight labour supply position the UK is in as demographic change, issues with long-term sickness and challenges in the skills system continue to bite.” 

The REC’s Overcoming Shortages report, shows what is at stake if employers and recruiters can’t fill vacancies with the necessary skilled people. With a 10% surge in demand for staff across the economy, and the labour market restricted by shortages, we could see a 1.2% fall in expected GDP and productivity by 2027 – costing the economy anywhere between £30 billion and £39 billion every year. This figure is just short of two whole Elizabeth Lines every year. 

Neil Carberry said:

“The UK can only compete on the quality and skill of our workforce. Employers and politicians need to realise that getting the people stuff right is critical to commercial success.  Firms need to take a more added value approach to how they recruit, working with professional recruiters. Governments across the UK need a proper people angle to their industrial strategy, based on an understanding of what people want from work today and the challenges they face not the preconceptions of Whitehall, Westminster or the other capitals. Flexibility in how people work is critical to economic success and the welfare of the workforce of the UK.” 

Occupations with notable increases in adverts in April 2024 include Conservation Professionals (+16.5%), Scaffolders, Stagers and Riggers (+14.5%) and NCOs and Other Ranks (+12.9%). 

There was also growing demand for Authors, Writers and Translators (+9.8%), Delivery Operatives (+7.4%) and Road Transport Drivers n.e.c. (+5.9%). 

Water and Sewerage Plant Operatives (-23.3%), Agricultural and Fishing Trades n.e.c. (-28.3%) and Data Entry Administrators (-29.7%), all showed the largest decline in roles from March 2024 to April 2024. This is the third consecutive month where job postings for Prison Service Officers have been in the bottom ten occupations (-22.5%), Probation Officers also saw a decline in the number of postings this month (-22.2%).  

Across the UK (United Kingdom), Powys (+12.1%), Gwynedd (+6.6%) and Highland (+3.9%) had among the highest growth in job postings when compared to last month. 

Westminster (-17.4%), Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham (-17.5%) and Sheffield (-18.8%) all accounted for the sharpest decline in job postings. This is the second month in a row that Sheffield has seen a decline in the number of active postings.  

Counties in the devolved nations saw the largest rates of growth. All the top ten regions with the highest percentage of growth were based in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.