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Graduate labour market update: staff availability and popular jobs

May 2023

Charlie Ball looks at the latest data on the UK and Irish labour markets as well as reports on increasing staff availability and which jobs are popular and unpopular

Monthly real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have fallen by 0.3% in March 2023. However, overall it grew by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2023 - this means the UK is not in recession:

  • The services sector fell by 0.5% in March 2023, after an unrevised fall of 0.1% in February 2023, and was the main contributor to the fall in monthly GDP.
  • Output in consumer facing services fell by 0.8% in March 2023, after unrevised growth of 0.4% in February.
  • Production output grew by 0.7% in March 2023, which was its strongest monthly growth since May 2021, following a fall of 0.1% in February 2023 (revised up from a 0.2% fall in our last publication).
  • The construction sector grew by 0.2% in March 2023 after growth of 2.6% in February 2023 (revised up from a 2.4% growth in our previous publication).

The total number of online job adverts fell by 1% on 5 May 2023 compared with the previous week. It was 18% lower than the equivalent period of 2022, with 11 of the 12 UK countries and English regions and 24 of the 28 job categories showing a decrease in the number of online job adverts compared with a year ago.

Industry,Level of vacancies
Creative/design/arts & media,93.4
Energy/oil & gas,101.5
HR & recruitment,106.3
Healthcare & social care,78.5

31% of businesses with ten or more employees were experiencing worker shortages in late April, up two percentage points from late March 2023. 53% of those affected indicated that their employees were working increased hours as a consequence.

There are two new reports from REC, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, with a focus on recruitment agencies. The first is their monthly Labour Market Tracker:

  • There were 189,832 new job postings in the week of 17 to 23 April 2023 - that's 31.8% higher compared to the week before, as firms returned to hiring after the Easter break.
  • The number of active postings in the week of 17 to 23 April was 1,696,319. This is a 4% increase compared to the previous week (10 to 16 April) but shows a 19.5% increase compared to the year before (18 to 24 April 2022). The figure had remained above 1.4 million since January 2022.
  • There were notable increases in adverts for jobs as collector salespersons and credit card agent (they visit private households to obtain orders and collect payments for goods and services) (+18.4%), dental practitioners (+13.2%), and glaziers, window fabricators and fitters (+12.6%).
  • There was no decline in job adverts in any county/unitary authority during 17 to 23 April 2023.

Secondly, REC's Report on Jobs covers increasing staff availability:

  • Staff availability improved for the second month in a row in April. The latest upturn was often linked to redundancies, but also more people seeking higher paid roles due to the rising cost of living.
  • Starting pay for both permanent and temporary workers went up, with higher living costs and competition for suitable staff key drivers.
  • A softer rise in permanent staff demand contrasted with a sharper increase in temp positions - but both remain on the increase.
  • The rate at which labour supply improved quickened slightly on the month but remained modest overall. Underlying data showed that a slightly faster rise in permanent candidate numbers contrasted with a softer upturn in temp staff availability. Recruiters often linked higher staff supply to redundancies and workers looking for better paid roles amid the rising cost of living.
  • Vacancies continued to increase across both the private and public sectors at the start of the second quarter. Growth of demand for temporary staff improved to similarly sharp rates across both sectors. Permanent staff vacancies meanwhile rose at a quicker rate in the public sector than in the private sector, with the latter seeing the softest upturn in demand for four months.
  • Permanent vacancies increased in nine of the ten monitored job sectors during April. Engineering topped the rankings, closely followed by Accounting/Financial. Retail was the only category to register a fall in demand.
  • Nursing/Medical/Care topped the temporary staff demand league table at the start of the second quarter, followed by Hotel & Catering and Engineering. The only monitored sector to see reduced demand for short-term staff was Retail.

The Robert Half Jobs Confidence Index shows that 43% of employees feel confident about their career and progression prospects over the next five years:

  • The Jobs Confidence Index stood firmly in positive territory at 19.9 in Q4 2022, pointing to the continued strength of the UK labour market, however it has fallen by 7.5 points from Q3.
  • Q4 marked the most negative reading on macroeconomic confidence pillar since Q4 2020 and the sharpest quarterly fall since Q2 of the same year. This came as interest rates rose further and inflation remained near 40-year highs.
  • Job security confidence remains high, reflecting the high ratio of vacancies to unemployment and the near 50-year low in the unemployment rate. However, this measure dropped by 18.3 points compared to Q3.
  • Job search and progression confidence rose by 1.6 points. This followed a fall in Q3. The core driver of this rise was a fall in involuntary part-time work. The share of those working part-time who do so due to an inability to find full-time work stood at 9.5% in Q4, the lowest reading since Q2 2008.

Jobs that are unattractive both to existing workers and career switchers tend to be less specialised entry-level roles.

Indeed have examined the UK and Irish labour markets:

  • Job postings have fallen across most UK occupations since the start of the year. Categories which saw particularly strong post-pandemic growth such as retail, cleaning & sanitation, production & manufacturing and loading & stocking have retreated substantially from previous peaks, albeit remain well above pre-pandemic levels.
  • Other categories including legal, software development, driving and sales now sit below pre-pandemic levels. Only a handful of healthcare categories including therapy, physicians & surgeons and medical technicians have seen strengthening job posting trends in 2023. 
  • For Ireland, occupations in which postings are farthest above pre-pandemic levels include healthcare and social care-related occupations, alongside agriculture and cleaning & sanitation.
  • Four categories are currently below the pre-pandemic baseline: Media & communications, chemical engineering, IT operations & helpdesk and legal.
  • The gap in job posting trends between Dublin and the rest of Ireland has continued to widen. Postings in Dublin are less than 14% above pre-pandemic levels, while postings in the rest of the country are up by 116% over the same period.

Indeed have also undertaken analysis of popular and unpopular jobs in their data:

  • Indeed data shows that in the year to April 2023, driving had both the highest sector loyalty, and attracted the greatest interest from other professions. Software development, accounting, and cleaning & sanitation also fared well on both counts.
  • Conversely, hospitality & tourism, community & social service, retail and customer service score poorly on both metrics.
  • These patterns haven't greatly changed since pre-pandemic, suggesting there hasn't been a widespread re-evaluation among workers. 
  • The attractiveness of different occupations likely reflects varying combinations of pay, flexibility and barriers to entry. The 'stickiest' jobs tend to be specialised ones where workers have made a considerable investment gaining specific skills and experience.
  • Jobs that are unattractive both to existing workers and career switchers tend to be less specialised entry-level roles, with lower pay and less favourable working conditions. 

This is a particularly interesting report with a lot of nuanced data analysis from Indeed's excellent Jack Kennedy, that is well worth reading in full.

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