Weekly vacancy analysis: Vacancy trends in week-ending 14 June 2020

Williams M, Papoutsaki D, Wilson T |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Jun 2020

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This is the tenth in a series of weekly briefings exploring changes in vacancies since the Covid-19 crisis began.  The work is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and uses vacancy data collected by Adzuna (www.adzuna.co.uk) – one of the largest online job search engines in the UK. This briefing covers vacancies up to Sunday 14 June 2020 and includes new analysis of the ratio between unemployment and vacancies using the latest claimant count unemployment data which were released on 16 June.

Changes in new vacancies and vacancy levels

As at 15 March 2020, Adzuna was listing 820 thousand UK vacancies, which by 14 June had fallen to 367 thousand. Over the last week vacancies have increased by 21 thousand, or 6 per cent. Vacancies remain nearly half a million below pre-crisis levels and more than 600 thousand below this time last year. Our analysis finds that during the last week, there were 105 thousand new vacancies notified which is 12 per cent higher than the figure reported last week and the second increase in a row.

Changes in unemployment/vacancy ratios

This week has seen the latest release of Claimant Count unemployment data by ONS, showing that unemployment in May was 2.8 million. The increase since March is larger than during the whole of the previous two recessions. The number of unemployed claimants per vacancy has increase from 1.5 in March to 4.5 in April and to 8.5 in May. The highest unemployment/vacancy ratios are in Northern Ireland, the North East, Wales, and Scotland. The ratio has increased fastest in London, followed by the South East, even though these regions are still below the ratio in Northern Ireland in March (6.0).

An alternative way of understanding local differences is using the ONS area classification for local authorities which groups LAs with similar characteristics. The jobs market was slackest in ethnically diverse urban areas (outer London, Birmingham, Leicester, Luton and Slough) and ex-industrial areas, with around 20 people competing for each job in May. The ratio of unemployed claimants to vacancies was lowest in cosmopolitan inner London boroughs, business and university towns and cities, and affluent areas in the East and South East, although London Cosmopolitan areas experienced the largest rise in the unemployment/vacancy ratio in the last month, almost trebling from 0.7 in April to 2 in May.

Vacancies by job type

Vacancies have fallen in all job types, but health and social care work has held up to a much greater extent than other job areas. There have been particularly steep falls in hospitality, sales and retail. Health, IT, education and social care vacancies account for just over half of the total – compared with around one third of the total in early March. There have been increases across all job types except for health and social work, with the fastest increase among legal vacancies, and the largest numerical increase in vacancies in IT. Other job types in which there have been above average percentage increases and large numerical increases include sales, accounting/finance, and engineering.

Vacancies by salary level

There is a narrowing of the gap in the number of vacancies between the two lowest pay bands, reflecting the large falls in vacancies for hospitality and catering which are typically low paid. Vacancies have increased marginally across all salary bands between May and June, except for jobs paying £55,000 or more.

Conclusions and next steps

One swallow does not make a summer, but two weeks of increasing stocks and flows of vacancies indicate tentative signs of recovery in the labour market, particularly in areas such as legal, IT, sales, accounting/finance, and engineering. Health and social care vacancies have been flat over the last couple of weeks but were much less affected immediately after the crisis.

However, the comparison of unemployment and vacancy data, which reflect the situation in mid-May before any increase in vacancies emerged, show that there were over eight unemployed claimants per vacancy, up from around four and a half in April. As claimant unemployment understates the true level of unemployment, there are likely to be at least ten unemployed people chasing each vacancy. This is the average across the country, and in some ex-industrial and urban areas outside of the south and east of England there are 50 claimants per vacancy.

We will continue to publish further vacancy analyses at the end of each week, with next week’s briefing focusing on changes in occupations over the last three months.

Finally, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also produces a weekly update at the aggregate level using Adzuna data. Their analysis, including details on the differing methodologies used between our analyses, is detailed here.