New research: Job vacancies down 42% on last month, with London and Scotland faring worst

Press Releases

20 Apr 2020

New analysis of real-time vacancy data, by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), has found that job vacancies have fallen by 42% since the lockdown began last month – by far the largest monthly fall in job openings in at least twenty years.

The analysis uses vacancy data collected by, one of the UK’s largest online jobs boards.  As at 15 March 2020 Adzuna was listing 820 thousand vacancies, which by 12 April had fallen to 475 thousand.  This fall is two-and-a-half times greater than the previous largest single monthly fall, in the depths of the last recession (November 2008).

The briefing published by IES and JRF today also explores how vacancy levels have changed across local areas and by different job types.

The analysis of areas finds that the largest falls in job openings have been in Scotland (down 49%) and London (down 44%).  By contrast, Northern Ireland and the North East have seen vacancies fall by around one third (35%) – although they account for a very small fraction of all job opportunities (2.5% of the total).

Uniquely, the analysis explores changes at Local Authority level (and groups of Councils in London), showing that the differences within regions are greater than those between them.  Ten local areas have seen vacancies fall by 50% or more, comprising:

  • Two areas in the North West of England – with Blackpool seeing the single largest monthly fall, of 69%, and Trafford in Greater Manchester down by 51%
  • Five areas in Scotland – with Edinburgh among these, falling by 58%
  • Two areas in the South West of England – including Devon, down 53%
  • South East London, down by 50%

The analysis of changes by job types is particularly concerning, and shows that vacancies have fallen steeply across whole swathes of the economy and not just in sectors that were “shut down” last month.

So while job openings in hospitality and catering have seen the largest falls (down 70%), vacancies have also fallen by more than 60% in sales, administration, public relations, consulting, HR and recruitment, energy and charity work.

At the same time however, these figures do demonstrate that even in the depths of this downturn employers are still creating jobs.  Indeed vacancies have fallen only slightly in healthcare, and have risen in social work and cleaning.  Combined, these three areas now account for a quarter of all vacancies, compared with just one in seven a month ago.

Commenting on the figures, Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said:

“This data paints a stark and detailed picture of how the jobs market has been rocked over the last month.  These impacts are far greater than anything we’ve seen before and are affecting all places and nearly all parts of the economy.

“At the same time though, there are still nearly half a million job openings, with vacancies holding up in health and social care in particular.  So we need to keep working to support those who are out of work and looking for work to find those jobs.

“The continued lockdown is justified and necessary, and if it eases during May and June then we should expect to see vacancies start to rise again.  But we need to start planning for that recovery now, with a ‘Cobra for Jobs’ to bring together those inside and outside government and ensure that the country can get back to work as quickly as possible.”

Dave Innes, Head of Economics at JRF said:

“This research helps us understand how the lockdown is affecting people who are vulnerable to poverty. It shows parts of the economy where workers are at the highest risk of poverty, such as restaurants and non-food retail, are being hardest hit by the outbreak. People who were already struggling to get by may find their hours are cut, or their jobs lost altogether at a time when vacancies are down significantly. At the same time, people will be hit by waves of additional costs, with higher bills from being at home more and the rising price of many essentials in the shops.

“Our social security system is a vital lifeline helping many of us weather this storm. The government has announced some welcome new measures, but it must further strengthen the support available, to give those who cannot work at present a lifeline to prevent them being swept into debt, poverty and hardship.”

IES Briefing - Real-time Vacancy analysis 20 April 2020.pdf