Weekly vacancy analysis: Vacancy trends in week-ending 17 May 2020

Williams M, Cockett J, Gray H, Papoutsaki D |   | Institute for Employment Studies | May 2020

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This is the sixth 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 17 May 2020 and includes new analysis of the changes in unemployment claims per vacancy.

Changes in vacancy levels and new vacancies

Our analysis finds that job vacancies across the UK have fallen further this week.  As at 15 March 2020, Adzuna was listing 820 thousand UK vacancies, which by 17 May had fallen to 316 thousand. Over the last week vacancies have fallen by 13 thousand, or 4%. There are still signs of recovery in the number of new vacancies advertised, as the number of new vacancies continued to increase for a fourth consecutive week. New vacancies notified in the week to 17 May exceeded levels last seen in the final week of March, but similar to the level last week.

Local and regional changes in vacancy levels

All UK regions and nations experienced falls in the stock of vacancies in the week to 17th May compared with the previous week, ranging from 1.2% in the East of England, to 6.6% in Wales. This more than reverses the increase in vacancies in Wales in the week to 10th May of 3%. Northern Ireland has seen the smallest reduction in vacancy levels. Vacancies in London have now fallen by 65% and are 127 thousand lower than in early March.

Changes by job types

Social work and healthcare and nursing jobs remain the occupational areas that have been most resilient to falls in vacancies, although the number of social work vacancies has fallen since last week, and is now back to the level where is was at the start of the crisis. The five areas of sales, hospitality/catering, administration, consultancy, and HR/recruitment remain the areas with the largest falls, reflecting the areas of the economy most affected by the ‘shut down’. The largest fall in numeric terms is in IT vacancies.

Changes in vacancies by salary levels

The drop in vacancies between the 2nd week of March and the 17 May remains the highest for the second salary band, with prospective earnings between £15,000-£24,999. The relatively higher drop in job vacancies from lower pay bands likely reflects lower pay in many of the sectors directly shutdown by the restrictions put in place last month. Higher paid jobs, where people are more likely to be able to work from home, have taken a smaller hit compared to those offering lower pay.

Relationship between unemployment and vacancies

This week has seen the release of the latest claimant count unemployment figures, which represent the first indications of the impact of the lockdown measures on the number of people out of work, reflecting the number of claimants as at 9th April. Between March and April the number of claimant rose by nearly 70%; in the recession following the credit crunch in the last 2000s it took nearly eight months for claimant unemployment to rise that much.

The latest data, comparing the claimant count as at 9th April with the Adzuna vacancy data for the second week in April, show that there were 4.5 claimant unemployed per vacancy, a near three-fold increase on the March 2020 figure (the increase was 188%). The contribution of the increase in unemployment was greater than the decrease in vacancies – unemployment rose by almost 70% whereas vacancies fell by just over 40%.

There are substantial regional differences in the unemployment-vacancy ratios. Between March and April this year the ratio has shot up in all regions, with the highest ratios in Northern Ireland (17) and the North East (11), but closely followed by Scotland (10) and Wales (10). The lowest ratio is in London (2.4) followed by the South East (2.8).

Conclusions and next steps

Vacancies are down again compared with last week, and new flows also down slightly. Patterns by region and job type are similar to those in previous weeks’ briefings. Comparing the vacancy data with the latest information on claimant count unemployment shows that the number of unemployed claimants per vacancy has shot up from 1.5 last month to 4.5 in April, with substantial variation by region. The North East has experienced the smallest increase, but still has one of the highest ratios, while the ratio has increased the most in the South West.

The data released this week, combined with these vacancy figures, make clear that this is the toughest jobs market in a generation.  This week we have published two papers, co-authored with a range of other organisations, that set out practical proposals for responding to this crisis (Help Wanted and Securing a place for young people).  In our view central and local government, employers, civil society and those who can work to support the unemployed now need to work together to support people to prepare to work and move back into work as the lockdown eases.

We will continue to publish further vacancy analyses at the end of each week, and anticipate that future briefings will include: Extending the Claimant Count analysis to explore the unemployment-vacancy ratio within local areas; A deep dive exploring trends within specific areas; A detailed analysis of the reduction in vacancies for different occupations

We would welcome input and feedback on this briefing note, and on the content and analysis for future briefings.