It’s good news for recruiters and employers alike this month as the WaveTrackR September 2021 Recruitment Trends Report found that applications rose for the first time since May. Could the end of the furlough scheme at the close of September have expedited an influx of candidates into the market? Given the lack of candidate availability over the past few months it is certainly not unwelcome. A 15% increase in applications will help to fill the high number of jobs on the market, which continued to rise in September.
The rise in applications combined with a modest increase in jobs is a great sign for the job market. Whilst jobs have, yet again, risen, the percentage increase has slowed compared to August (17% in September compared to 27% in August). This adds up to the creation of a stronger, more stable job market in general. Jobs may soar further in October (the final 2 weeks of September saw them rise sharply, ending the month at a record 412% above the 2020 weekly average) but, with the furlough scheme now officially over, we are likely to see further increases in applications during October too.
September had been predicted to be a month of increased job activity as schools re-started and parents applied for jobs in the hope of fewer disruptions. This follows the easing of restrictions, the economy re-opening over the summer, a huge majority of adults double vaccinated and people returning from holidays feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready to take on a new challenge that just wasn’t possible during the height of the pandemic. The end of the furlough scheme on September 30th would also certainly have had a bearing, a theory strengthened by the weekly application figures across September. Although they were gradually rising from the last week of August, the final two weeks of September saw them shoot up. Applications soared from 86% above the 2020 weekly average in mid-September, to 117% in the penultimate week of the month, and then to 140% in its final week.
The rise in applications follows three consecutive months of falling numbers which, coupled with a boom in jobs, created a candidate shortage that has been felt across the majority of industries. Applications in September reached 116% over the 2020 monthly average, a figure only surpassed in 2021 by March’s application numbers. Average applications per job remains unmoved at 7 but, thanks in part to the relatively modest rise in jobs, for the first time in 8 months the number hasn’t fallen. If applications continue to increase and jobs don’t rocket too high, that number should plateau or rise.
Of course, as always, different industries are experiencing different challenges. Public Sector and Health & Nursing were in the top 5 for job posting but low application numbers mean they received amongst the lowest average numbers of applications per job (2). Agriculture, too, received just 2 applications per job on average, highlighting the issues the industry is facing following the lack of EU workers normally relied upon.
Manufacturing and Secretarial, PAs & Admin are both experiencing the opposite problem, each receiving high numbers of applications but without the jobs to support them. The rise in automation and AI (accelerated during the pandemic) is hitting admin roles hard and Manufacturing continues to be dogged by supply chain issues caused by Brexit and the pandemic. At an average of 25 applications per job, Retail & Wholesale roles also received a far higher than average number of applications. As high street shops remain on rocky ground and online sales grow, candidates are outstripping available jobs in the sector.
Interestingly, Accountancy is now receiving a low average number of applications per job when just a few months ago it received the third highest. Two other financial services industries - Insurance and Banking - received the highest average numbers of applications per job (job security being a major factor) so there appears to be a skills shortages in Accountancy specifically.
Given the skills shortages a wide range of industries are experiencing, a rise in applications is welcome news indeed. Jobs, too, are continuing to be robust. The monthly percentage increase may have waned slightly in September but jobs are still growing. Certain industries will continue to face shortages thanks to Brexit, the pandemic and historic issues but in general the job market and the wider economy is strengthening.