Weekly vacancy analysis: Vacancy trends in week-ending 31 May 2020

Cockett J, Gray H, Papoutsaki D, Williams M, Wilson T |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Jun 2020

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This is the eighth 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 31 May 2020 and includes new analysis of the changes in unemployment claims per vacancy.

Changes in new vacancies and vacancy levels

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 31 May had fallen to 326 thousand. Over the last week vacancies have decreased slightly by 6 thousand, or 2%. The current stock of vacancies is now 60 per cent lower than before the start of the crisis, and 65 per cent lower than the same week in 2019.

Local and regional changes in vacancy levels

Before the crisis began, there were around two vacancies per 100 people of working age in most parts of England.  In the devolved nations and the North East of England, the ratio was around one vacancy or less per 100 people of working age. In the latest week’s data, there remains just over one vacancy per 100 people of working age in London, around one vacancy per 100 in other parts of the South and East of England, and a ratio between 0.6 and 0.7 in the rest of England.  In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are around 0.2 to 0.4 vacancies per 100 people of working age.

Vacancies by job type

The largest categories of job vacancies are healthcare and nursing, teaching, IT and social work. Pre-crisis IT was the largest category followed by healthcare and nursing. Social work vacancies are the only category where job vacancies have continued to hold up at similar levels to before the crisis began. Despite healthcare and nursing vacancies falling since the beginning of the crisis, they continue to make up 1 in 5 available vacancies. Hospitality/catering, administration, consultancy, and HR/recruitment continue to be the occupational categories with the largest percentage drop, reflecting areas of the economy highly affected by the ‘shut down’.

Vacancies by salary level

The plurality of vacancies is in the salary bands with prospective earnings of £15,000-£24.999 and £25,000-£34,999, both for the period before the lockdown and the 5th week of May. The drop in vacancies between the 2nd week of March and week ending 31st May is the highest for the second salary band, with prospective earnings of £15,000-£24,999, with a fall of 64 per cent.

Deep dives in areas with high levels of deprivation

This week we are looking in detail at changes in vacancies within a small number of local authorities with higher levels of deprivation (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation) in order to understand how the number and types of vacancies available in these areas have changed since mid-March. The areas we focus on are: Blackburn with Darwen; City of Kingston upon Hull; Knowsley; and Middlesbrough.

All four areas had a relatively higher proportion of vacancies before the crisis began in the three main job types that have seen smaller declines overall – namely social work, healthcare and nursing, and teaching. The two areas with the largest shares of vacancies in these three job types are also the two areas that saw smaller declines in vacancies overall; their greater reliance on health, teaching and care jobs has helped to cushion the fall in vacancies overall. With vacancies in other job types falling significantly, this has meant that these three job types now account for the large majority of all vacancies in all four areas. 

All four areas had, pre-crisis, and continue to have a larger proportion of vacancies in the lower salary bands than the country as a whole. In terms of contract types, the share of jobs advertised as permanent has increased during the crisis in all four areas. However, in all four areas there have also been very large increases in the share of jobs being advertised as part-time, which can be associated with higher levels of poverty.

Taken together, the stand-out fact from these deep dives is the scale of the reliance on public sector jobs, and in particular on health and social care, in all four deprived areas. 

Conclusions and next steps

Vacancies and new flows are slightly lower compared with last week, which may reflect seasonal trends – as the year-on-year change remains broadly stable.  However there are no signs yet of any significant recovery in hiring and employer confidence. Patterns by region are similar to those in previous weeks’ briefings, while there has been a small uptick in vacancies in some sectors – most notably sales and customer services. 

Our deep dive analysis illustrates in more depth the extent to which deprived areas are now reliant on public service jobs for new hiring, and in particular health, social care and education.  There are some worrying signs that jobs may be offering fewer hours, and therefore potentially less pay, than before the crisis began.  Stimulating job creation, and in particular hiring into jobs that do not require specific qualifications, may need to be a priority in the coming months.

We will continue to publish further vacancy analyses at the end of each week, and anticipate that future briefings will include a detailed analysis of the reduction in vacancies for different occupations.