Six months on from the UK’s highest-ever reported number of vacancies

Posted on 7 Sep 2022

In November 2021, we saw the number of vacancies rise to record highs. The social, political, and economic changes that had occurred since March 2020 massively affected the employment market, and despite the uncertainty caused by the ending of the government’s furlough scheme, unfilled vacancies continued to rise. Six months on, what’s changed? Have vacancies continued to rise and unprecedented levels, or have the rising rates on inflation had an impact on the job market? And what impact will this have on recruitment and IT?

“The Great Resignation”

At the end of 2021, a phenomenon dubbed “The Great Resignation” was coined to describe the high volumes of workers leaving their jobs in the US. A similar pattern was identified here in the UK, although to a less dramatic extent.

The uncertainty that the COVID pandemic brought to the jobs market and a recovering economy hit the recruitment sector in a way that few anticipated. Instead of the expected large volumes of unemployment and few vacancies, the opposite became apparent. However, there was the belief that this would begin to slow down as UK industry was expected to recover. As we reach the halfway point in 2022, what is the current appearance of the UK job market?

The current outlook of the UK job market

It’s fair to say that the job market has again not behaved as expected. As reported by Business Live and Nottingham Post, job vacancies grew in the period to March 2022, hitting a peak of 1.29 million. It has also recently emerged that, for the first time since records began, there were more vacancies than unemployed individuals, as unemployment rates for over 16s fell to 1.26 million in the same period to March.

Whereas previously widening numbers of vacancies appeared to target only certain industries or roles, such as HGV Drivers, the trend now appears to spread across the UK job market, with increasing number of unfilled teaching, construction, and healthcare roles.

And according to several experts, one demographic is displaying a significantly lower incentive to return to work – the over 50s. Figures released by the Centre for Ageing Better and published in an article by This Is Money, estimate that there are now 200,000 fewer over-50s in the British labour market than there was pre-pandemic, a trend which has itself been labelled “The Grey Resignation.”

The Office for National Statistics go one step further, and report that there are now half a million “largely older people” who have “completely disengaged from work, which is likely to shrink the economy”.

But if these dramatic patterns really are here to stay, what might we expect to see in the future?

Forecasting the future of the UK jobs market.

If this blog has revealed anything, it’s that the UK jobs market is notoriously difficult to predict. However, to quote Suren Thiru, head of economics at British Chambers of Commerce, “With rising economic inactivity indicating a deep-seated decline in worker participation, particularly among older people, recruitment difficulties may persistently drag on economic output.” In other words, the UK job market is not prepared for the difficulties posed by large volumes of unfilled vacancies.

The impact on IT and Recruitment

If patterns continue in the way that we have seen since November, its undeniable that recruiters and recruitment departments will have their work cut out. It has been suggested that employers are offering staff generous bonuses in order to keep them, but it’s currently unknown what impact this will have. If current figures are anything to go by, employees are firmly in the driving seat, and employers and recruiters may need to spend more time focusing on what they can offer applicants to attract and retain them.

With regard to IT, it could be argued that the extraordinary rise in the use of IT could be one of the biggest influences in driving the over-50s out of the jobs market. IT professionals will need to ensure that, no matter what advances in made in technology, no demographics feel like they have insufficient skills to complete their jobs.

What’s your opinion of the current outlook of the UK job market? Get in touch to let us know your thoughts.