Weekly vacancy analysis: Vacancy trends in week-ending 24 May 2020

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

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This is the seventh 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 24 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 24 May had fallen to 331 thousand. Over the last week vacancies have increased slightly by 16 thousand, or 5%. There are still signs of recovery in the number of new vacancies advertised, as the number of new vacancies continued to increase for a fifth consecutive week, going from 67 thousand the previous week to 74 thousand 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 24th May since the onset of the crisis. The largest fall by percentage and total count has been in London, and the lowest fall by percentage and total count has been in Northern Ireland, Wales, and the North East of England.

Changes by job types

Social work vacancies are at a similar level to early March with a small 2 per cent drop. Other occupational areas that have been resilient to falls in vacancies are healthcare/nursing (11 per cent drop) and domestic help/cleaning (22 per cent drop). Hospitality/catering, administration, consultancy, and HR/recruitment are the occupational categories with the largest percentage drop, reflecting areas of the economy highly affected by the ‘shut down’. Sales has one of the highest drops in both percentage change (84 per cent) and total number of jobs decline (56 thousand).

Relationship between unemployment and vacancies

This week we look at claimant counts per vacancy between March and April at a more granular level, firstly by local authority and secondly by groupings of these local authorities according to a typology developed by the Office for National Statistics.

Claimant-vacancy ratios are particularly high in coastal areas, northern metropolitan boroughs, and parts of the devolved nations such as the south of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Welsh valleys. The general pattern shows that districts with high claim-vacancy ratios in March also were among the highest claim-vacancy ratios districts in April. The pattern of absolute change in claimant-vacancy ratio indicates that those areas where people were already struggling to find work were those that were more affected by the crisis.

The worst affected areas, in terms of typologies, are those with a significant industrial legacy, covering the central belt of Scotland, parts of Wales, and parts of the North of England, and ethnically diverse metropolitan areas which include outer London Boroughs and districts such as Birmingham, Leicester, Luton, and Slough.

Areas classified as Affluent England and the cosmopolitan parts of London (mainly Inner London boroughs) had some of the lowest claimant-vacancy ratios before the crisis began. However, Affluent England experienced the largest proportional increase in the number of unemployed claimants per vacancy, while London Cosmopolitan experienced the lowest proportional increase of this ratio. Even after these increases, the claimant-vacancy ratios in both areas still remained lower than those seen before the lockdown in the industrial heartlands and other disadvantaged areas.

Conclusions and next steps

Vacancies and new flows are slightly higher compared with last week. 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 is higher in ex-industrial districts and coastal areas. The increase of this ratio in more affluent areas in England and in London was substantial, however its final levels in those relatively more affluent areas was significantly lower compared to the ratios in more disadvantaged areas.

The data released this week, combined with these vacancy figures, make clear that this is the toughest jobs market in a generation.  Last week we 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:

■          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.