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UK graduate labour market update: 16 June

June 2021

Charlie Ball's regular summary of data and reports from the labour market, brought to you by Prospects Luminate and Jisc Data Analytics

UK GDP is estimated to have risen by 2.3% in April 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS):

  • Services output grew by 3.4% in April 2021 but remained 4.1% below its pre-pandemic level of February 2020. Consumer facing services grew by 12.7% as coronavirus restrictions eased throughout April, with levels recovering to their initial recovery peak in October 2020.
  • Retail sales volumes grew sharply in April 2021 with a monthly increase of 9.2%, reflecting the re-opening of all non-essential retail from 12 April in England and Wales and from 26 April in Scotland. Non-food stores provided the largest contribution to the monthly growth in April 2021 sales volumes, aided by strong increases of 69.4% and 25.3% in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively.
  • Accommodation service activities grew by 68.6% as caravan parks and holiday lets picked up, while food and beverage service activities grew by 39.0% as pubs, restaurants and cafes could serve customers in outdoor seating areas.
  • Other personal service activities (including hairdressing) grew by 63.5% in April 2021, as hairdressing re-opened in England on 12 April.
  • Education output was the second main contributor to services growth in April 2021, growing 11.2%, as more pupils returned to onsite lessons in April. This contributed 0.72 percentage points to April 2021 monthly growth.
  • Growth in human health activities slowed down in April 2021, to 0.1% growth. Output levels remain at record highs driven by coronavirus testing and tracing and vaccine schemes across the UK.
  • Production fell by 1.3% in April 2021, with contraction in three out of the four. This is the first fall since January 2021, when there was a fall of 1.9% as coronavirus restrictions were re-introduced.
  • Mining and quarrying contributed to most of April's fall in production output, contributing negative 0.1 percentage points to gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Mining and quarrying output contracted by 15.0% in April 2021 mainly because of an 18.2% fall in extraction of crude petroleum and natural gas. Planned temporary closures for maintenance of oil field production sites were an important factor in April's low output, while latest trade figures point to a fall in fuels exports.
  • The manufacturing sector contracted slightly by 0.3%, following two months of growth. Five out of the 13 manufacturing sub-sectors fell. The largest contribution to the fall came from the manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations (which fell by 16.0%, returning to levels last seen in 2019) and the manufacture of transport equipment (which fell by 2.8%).
  • Construction output fell by 2.0% in April 2021, following exceptionally strong growth in March. This is the first fall in construction since December 2020, when it fell by 2.2%.
  • The fall in construction output in April 2021 was driven by both a fall in new work (2.9%) and repair and maintenance (0.6%). Despite April's fall, construction remains slightly above February 2020 levels (0.3%).

You can find more details of the effects of COVID (and the blockage of the Suez Canal) on these figures.

The median salary for working-age graduates was £35,000 in 2020. This was £9,500 more than non-graduates (£25,500). The median salary for postgraduates was £42,000.

The Department for Education have released their annual examination of Labour Force Survey data comparing postgraduates, graduates and non-graduates:

  • Graduates and postgraduates had broadly similar employment, unemployment and inactivity rates in 2020. Comparatively, postgraduates had a higher employment rate, a lower inactivity rate and a lower unemployment rate.
  • Employment outcomes for non-graduates were considerably different, with stark differences visible across all three metrics. In the case of inactivity rates, the non-graduate rate was more than double that of both other groups. Nearly one in four non-graduates was economically inactive.
  • In 2020, the employment rate for working-age graduates - those aged 16 to 64 - was 86.4%, down 1.1 percentage points from 2019 (87.5%). For working-age postgraduates the employment rate was 88.2%, for non-graduates it was 71.3%. These data represent falls of 0.5 and 0.7 percentage points from 2019, respectively.
  • 66% of working-age graduates were in high-skilled employment, compared with 78.4% of postgraduates and 24.5% of non-graduates. The graduate rate increased 0.4 percentage points in 2019. The rate for non-graduates was 0.6 percentage points lower than in 2019 while for postgraduates it was 0.5 percentage points down on the previous year.
  • The median salary for working-age graduates was £35,000 in 2020. This was £9,500 more than non-graduates (£25,500). The median salary for postgraduates was £42,000.
  • Young graduates (aged 21-30) had broadly similar figures for employment (86.5%) but unemployment (6.3%) was higher than for the graduate population as a whole (3.7%). Young graduates were rather less likely to be in highly skilled employment than graduates as a whole, although the ONS presents figures as a proportion of the whole population and not as the working population. Nevertheless a majority were in highly skilled jobs. 21.4% of young non-graduates were in highly skilled employment

The latest round of the ONS fast response experimental statistics on the impact of COVID were released on the 10th June.

  • 7% of the UK workforce were furloughed - this is approximately 1.8 million people.
  • 23% of the workforce worked solely from home last week.
  • In April 2021, a net 24% of 33,500 firms reported an increase in turnover compared with April 2020 (as the first national lockdown came into effect). This was driven by turnover estimates increasing in all major industries (services, production, construction, and agriculture
  • The volume of UK online job adverts on 4 June 2021 was at 129% of its February 2020 average level, a slight increase of two percentage points when compared with a week ago (28 May 2021) and higher than the number of online job adverts seen in the equivalent period of 2019 and 2020.
  • Over the latest week, excluding the 'unknown' category, the volume of online job adverts had increased in 21 of the 28 categories, decreased in four categories and remained broadly unchanged in three categories. The largest weekly increase in the number of online job adverts was for 'customer service - support', which rose by 14 percentage points to 145% of its February 2020 average level on 4 June 2021.
  • In catering and hospitality, the volume of online job adverts increased by eight percentage points from a week ago to 140% of its February 2020 average level on 4 June 2021.
  • Other categories with notable weekly increases were 'transport, logistics and warehouse', 'travel and tourism' and 'wholesale and retail', which rose by 12, 9 and 7 percentage points, respectively.
  • The volume of UK online job adverts had increased in all 12 UK countries and English regions when compared with 28 May 2021. Scotland and Northern Ireland both saw the largest weekly increase of six percentage points to bring their volume of online job adverts to 126% and 164% of their February 2020 average levels on 4 June 2021, respectively.
  • The volume of online job adverts is now higher than February 2020 average levels across all UK countries and regions. Online job adverts in London exceeded their February 2020 average level for the first time since the onset of the pandemic on 28 May 2021 and, in the latest week on 4 June 2021, stood at 105% of its February 2020 average level.

Also from the ONS – analysis of data on take-up and attitudes to homeworking.

  • The proportion of working adults who did any work from home in 2020 increased to 37% on average from 27% in 2019 with workers living in London the most likely to homework.
  • Workers living in London were most likely to report working from home in the previous seven days. Those aged 30 to 49 years were most likely to report working from home, with almost half (45%) saying so compared with around one-third of those aged 16 to 29 years (34%) and 50 to 69 years (32%).
  • A similar proportion of businesses (31%) reported that their workforce was working remotely as restrictions eased in April and May 2021. There were large differences between industries, with the majority of the workforce in businesses in 'information and communication' and 'professional, scientific and technical activities' industries remote working (81% and 71%).
  • When asked about homeworking, working adults stated work-life balance was the greatest positive, while challenges of collaboration were the greatest negative.
  • Of businesses not permanently stopped trading, 24% stated that they intended to use increased homeworking going forward, with the information and communication industry recording the highest proportion (49%).
  • Online job adverts including terms related to homeworking have increased at a faster rate than total adverts, with homeworking adverts in May 2021 three times above their February 2020 average.
  • Of working adults currently homeworking, 85% wanted to use a 'hybrid' approach of both home and office working in future. However, there was some uncertainty among businesses, with 32% stating they were not sure what proportion of the workforce will be working from their usual place of work.
  • Both businesses and individuals preferred a hybrid working approach (a mixture of both office and homeworking) in the future. However, while nearly two-fifths (38%) of businesses expected 75% or more of their workforce to be at their normal place of work, a large proportion (36%) of those currently homeworking thought they would spend the majority or all their time homeworking in the future. Businesses had some uncertainty of when they would return with one-third (32%) not sure.
  • However, responses differed by industry. Only 15% of the information and communication industry expected 75% or more of their workforce at their normal place of work while this was almost half (49%) for the accommodation and food service activity industry.
  • When asked when they expect their workforce to return to their usual place of work, businesses most reported (37%) expecting this to happen within three months, or by early August 2021.
  • Data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) suggests individuals expect to continue working from home longer than businesses, with most individuals reporting expecting to return to their normal place of work within the next three to five months or by October 2021. Younger workers tend to expect to return to their normal place of work sooner than older workers, 36% of respondents between 16 and 29 years expecting this to happen in the next two months compared with less than 30% in all other age groups.
  • Both businesses and individuals would like to have protective measures in place when they return to their normal place of work, with increased cleaning measures and social distancing being a top priority for both groups.
  • Furthermore, 40% of individuals said they wanted a COVID-19 vaccine to be required, compared with only 20% of businesses have or intend to put this in place for people returning to their normal place of work.
  • Overall, individuals reported the main advantage of homeworking being 'an improvement to work-life balance'. Another positive was 'a reduction in the time taken to complete work' which may be linked to most individuals finding there were fewer distractions when working at home compared with in the office.
  • The main disadvantage was a feeling that it was harder to collaborate with others on work with 'fewer job opportunities' also reported.
  • Younger workers were less likely to report an overall positive view of homeworking than older workers, with fewer respondents aged between 16 and 29 years reporting 'improved work-life balance' or 'completing work in a shorter time' than those aged over 30 years. They were also the only age group to overall report more distractions working from home.
  • Women were more likely than men to report homeworking gave them more time to complete work and fewer distractions, while men were more likely to report better wellbeing. For men, homeworking aided the creation of new ideas, while for women this was more likely to be seen as a barrier.
  • In comparison, when businesses were asked why they intend to use increased homeworking in future, improved staff wellbeing was the most common reason provided, with four in five businesses citing it. Reduced overheads and increased productivity were also common reasons.
  • For businesses who did not intend to increase homeworking, the main reason was that remote working was 'not suitable for our businesses' with 83% of businesses reporting this.
  • Around 20% of businesses reported 'reduced communication', 'negative impact on working culture', as well as 'reduced productivity' as reasons for not intending to use increased homeworking as a permanent business model. Responses across industries were similar, however businesses in the Real Estate Activities industry reported these problems most often.

British Chambers of Commerce have issued new forecasts for the UK economy. These were based on the government's plan to lift all final restrictions on 21 June and so don't take into account the four-week delay announced this week:

  • They predict UK GDP growth for 2021 of 6.8%.
  • If COVID restrictions continue to be released, UK GDP growth will be strongest over Q2 2021 and Q3 2021. The UK economy is then expected to return to its pre-pandemic level in Q1 2022 with growth of 5.1% projected for next year.
  • Consumer spending is expected to be the main driver of this year's economic rebound. The release of pent-up demand if restrictions ease as currently planned and the rapid vaccine rollout is forecast to drive the strongest growth in spending since 1988, as consumers spend some of their 'unanticipated' savings accumulated during lockdowns.
  • Business investment is forecast to rebound strongly in 2021 and 2022, driven by the anticipated boost from the reopening of the economy and the introduction of the super-deduction incentive. However, business investment is projected to slow sharply in 2023 as the super-deduction incentive ends and corporation tax increases.
  • Output from catering and hospitality, some of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, are forecast to only return to pre-pandemic levels in Q2 2023. In contrast, manufacturing output is projected to return to its pre-pandemic level in the third quarter of this year.
  • UK unemployment is projected to remain at a much lower level than in recent recessions. UK's unemployment rate is expected to peak at 6.0% and youth unemployment at 15.6% in Q4 2021, after the furlough scheme expires.
  • Youth unemployment is expected to lag the wider recovery with the UK's youth unemployment rate projected to average 10.1 percentage points higher than the overall unemployment rate across the forecast period, a quarter (25%) higher than the pre-covid average (7.6 percentage points).
  • Trade is projected to make a negative contribution over the forecast period. This largely reflects an anticipated decline in exports to the EU with post-Brexit disruption and the weak near-term outlook for the euro area expected to weigh on EU demand for UK goods and services.

Across the whole economy, there has been little relationship between the sectors where employee numbers have fallen fastest and those which employ more women than men.

The Resolution Foundation have issued their Q2 Labour Market Outlook. This edition has a focus on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women, unpicking the reasons for the smaller-than-expected labour market impact on women relative to men, and examining the impact on parents.

The overall impact has been reasonably equal on men and women. This contrasts somewhat with countries like the US and Japan, where there have been widening gender gaps in labour force participation, with women hit harder than men.

  • Early on in the crisis, one of the first pieces of evidence suggested that women were significantly more likely than men to have lost their jobs.
  • But subsequent evidence has consistently shown a far smaller gender difference in labour market outcomes like employment, furlough, and hours worked. In fact, according to the Labour Force Survey, the employment rate among men has fallen by more since the start of the crisis than it has among women (by 2.4% and 0.8% respectively), driven by large falls in self-employment.
  • Increases in female full-time employment - with the largest rises in education, public administration, and professional services - have counteracted much of the fall in part-time work and self-employment among women. And there have also not been substantial falls in women's labour force participation: economic inactivity among women aged 16 to 64 actually reached a record low in the three months to February 2021, while men's economic inactivity reached a joint record high.
  • Early expectations that women would be hardest hit in the crisis were based on the fact that women are more likely to work in the lower-paying, face-to-face sectors, like hospitality and retail, that have faced the biggest impacts from social distancing restrictions. But in fact, across the whole economy, there has been little relationship between the sectors where employee numbers have fallen fastest and those which employ more women than men.
  • The impact of the crisis on sectors like manufacturing, which are overwhelmingly male, was underestimated in early modelling: in reality, more businesses than expected stopped operating over the first lockdown despite not being mandated to close, or faced demand shortfalls.
  • Although women do dominate in some of the hardest-hit sectors, women also make up more than 70% of health and education workers, sectors that were protected from the worst economic impacts of the crisis - although many of these frontline key workers were, of course, at far greater risk from the health impacts of catching the virus.
  • More generally, women in employment were twice as likely as men to be in the public sector before the crisis (30% of women in 2019, compared to 14% of men), providing further employment protection.
  • Men were around twice as likely as women to be self-employed before the crisis, a group that has been affected much more than employees.
  • In April 2020, at the height of the first lockdown, women with children had the largest average fall in their working hours, at 37%, compared to between 32% and 34% among non-parents and fathers. By July 2020 - when much of the economy had opened up following hospitality's reopening on 4 July, but schools remained closed - the average mother's working hours were still down by almost a quarter (24%) on their pre-crisis level, a fall almost twice as large as non-parents (13%) and four times the size of fathers (6%). The pattern of working hours over the course of 2020 suggests that school closures had a far bigger impact on mothers' working hours than those of fathers, consistent with evidence from time use data.
  • In January 2021, although mothers were only slightly more likely than fathers to say they had reduced their hours due to childcare or home-schooling (13% and 11% respectively), they were five percentage points more likely to say they had adjusted their working patterns for the same reasons (a further 18%, compared to 13% of fathers).
  • Mothers' mental health was also significantly worsened by school closures, while fathers, on average, appear to have faced no impact.

The CIPD have released their annual Good Work Report. The Good Work Index examines seven key dimensions of job quality: pay and benefits; employment contracts; work-life balance; job design and nature of work; relationships at work; employee voice; and health and wellbeing.

  • One in four workers say work is bad for their physical or mental wellbeing (23% and 25% respectively - representing little change from 2020, where 26% and 27% of workers said this).
  • Just 52% say work offers good opportunities for development (and only 40% of furloughed workers say the same) - showing little improvement from 2020 when 48% of workers said this.
  • 30% of workers report unmanageable workloads, similar to the 32% that said this in 2020. This year the figure rose to 36% among key workers and 32% among those working from home all the time (regardless of occupation).
  • One in four workers report poor work-life balance, finding it difficult to relax in their personal time because of work (the same figure as 2020), and flexible working options remain out of reach for many.
  • Compared with previous years, more workers in 2021 say that managers and employee representatives are good at seeking their views. But occupational inequalities are still at play, with higher managerial and professional roles most satisfied with opportunities for voice, and routine occupations the least satisfied. 33% of those in routine occupations say managers are good at seeking the views of employees or employee representatives, compared to 55% of those in higher managerial occupations. 19% of workers report they have no access to voice channels in their organisations.
  • 63% of those in higher managerial and professional roles say they have the opportunity to develop their skills, compared with just 27% of those in routine occupations.

City and Guilds and EMSI have produced a new report, Skills Index 2021. The report, which includes a survey of over 1,000 employers collected by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), explores which skills have seen growth over the past year, and which skills are emerging across the labour market in the UK. The index sorts skills into technical, common, emerging and certified skills, and they are ranked according to the increase in total share of job postings between 2019 and 2020.

  • 56% of employers said they face some kind of barrier to meeting their skills and talent needs.
  • 28% cited the mismatch between the skills they need, and the skills people gain through school and education.
  • 61% of working age adults don't feel they are equipped with all the skills they will need to unlock new opportunities over the next five years.
  • 30% (equivalent to 11 million people) have not received formal workplace training in the last five years and, highlighting the pandemic's impact on training budgets, nearly two thirds (64%) have not received any training in the past year.
  • Looking ahead to the next three years the data suggests that half of all employers will be in need of additional industry or job specific skills - otherwise known as technical skills. Businesses also expect more common (or soft) skills, particularly those that aid business success and growth, such as sales or business development, leadership and management, and customer service or interpersonal skills.
  • 29% of employers state that they'll need basic digital and computer literacy, 22% say they'll need advanced digital skills, meanwhile, a quarter (24%) will need data handling and analysis skills.

Timewise and the Institute of Employment Studies have released a report on the impact of COVID on part-time workers:

  • Compared to full-time employees, part-timers have been disproportionately impacted, facing higher levels of reduced hours and redundancy. They have also been less likely to return to normal working hours, and less likely to hang on to roles during lockdowns, than full-timers.
  • Half of the part-time workforce who were working normally at the beginning of 2020 were either working reduced hours, or temporarily away from work, by the first lockdown period (April-June 2020). For full-timers, two-thirds remained working normally during the first lockdown.
  • There is evidence from throughout 2020 of a pattern of full-time employees returning to their normal hours at a higher proportion than part-time employees. When part-timers are temporarily out of work in one quarter, they are more likely than full-timers to be temporarily out of work in the next.
  • 44% of part-time employees who were away from work during the first lockdown continued to be away from work between July-September 2020, when restrictions began to temporarily ease. The comparable figure for full-time employees was about a third (33.6%). Full-timers are returning to their normal hours at higher rates compared to part-timers.
  • When asked, 80% of part-time workers (approximately 5.8 million part-timers) do not want to work more hours.

Cities and large towns in the North of England and the Midlands remained among the strongest performers, led by Middlesbrough, Hull and Stoke.

Two reports from the Behavioural Insights Team. The first is on gaps in CVs for those who have had caring responsibilities and wish to return to work:

The BIT applied to over 9,000 job vacancies over a six-month period October 2019 to March 2020 in a combination of higher and lower skilled roles in male and female-dominated industries. They recorded the rate of positive callbacks, e.g. an invitation to interview, a job offer or progress to the next stage of the application. They ran a randomised controlled trial comparing four equivalent CVs and cover letters, with the following alterations:

  • Currently employed: No gap.
  • Explained gap: 2.5-year gap since last job explained for childcare.
  • Unexplained gap: 2.5-year gap since last job left unexplained.
  • No dates: Dates of employment history replaced with the number of years' experience.

The BIT did not find a difference in callback rates whether the gap was explained or left unexplained. For lower skilled roles, the CV explaining the gap performed the worst. Presenting previous roles in terms of the number of years of experience rather than the dates of that experience increased positive callbacks by 14.6%.

The second report is on targeted referrals to reduce gender inequality. The BIT partnered with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to find ways to reduce their gender pay gap, analysing their HR data on recruitment and retention, pay and bonuses, progression and performance, sick leave and parental leave and more.

In most grades, women made up less than 40% of applicants, and the share of women applying was lower than the share of women currently working in those grades at MOD. Even though women were less likely than men to apply, they were more likely to be hired when they did.

  • To test the impact of targeted referrals the BIT ran a two-armed randomised controlled trial (RCT). As hiring managers advertised new vacancies in areas of MOD where women had been historically underrepresented, they were randomly allocated to either the control group or the intervention group.
  • Managers in the intervention group received an email inviting them to challenge their team to share the role with five women. Managers in the control group did not receive this communication. The trial ran for five months with around 800 hiring managers, 1000 vacancies, and over 18,000 applications.
  • While referrals in the control group reflected the gender make-up of the organisation (41% women), targeted referrals improved the gender balance among referrals (54% women) - an increase of 13 percentage points. Twice as many women were referred to a vacancy in the intervention group.
  • Targeted referrals increased both the number of applications from women and the number of offers made to women. However, they also resulted in more men applying and receiving offers. As a result, the intervention did not lead to significant changes in the share of applications from women and the share of offers made to women.

Indeed's job vacancy analysis to 4 June show a continued improvement in the market:

  • Job postings were 4.8% above the 1 February 2020, pre-pandemic baseline, seasonally adjusted, as of 4 June, 2021.
  • The strongest improvement during the latest fortnight was in the veterinary category, followed by cleaning & sanitation. Hospitality & tourism, scientific research & development, pharmacy, education & instruction and customer service also saw gains.
  • Several sectors saw deteriorating trends, led by construction. However, job postings remained well above pre-pandemic levels in those categories, with the exception of beauty & wellness.
  • Cities and large towns in the North of England and the Midlands remained among the strongest performers, led by Middlesbrough, Hull and Stoke. The weakest job posting recoveries have been in Aberdeen, Crawley and Belfast.

The Irish Higher Education Authority have examined mature student participation in Ireland:

  • The number of people aged between 15 and 64 years who have achieved a third-level qualification - degree or equivalent - in Ireland has increased by 5% in the past decade.
  • 40% of the population having achieved third-level. Within the 25-44 year age cohort, levels of participation in higher education have surpassed 50%.
  • In the academic year 2018/2019, 6.8% of new entrants in universities were mature students, compared with 12.3% in colleges and Institutes of Technology.
  • Almost three in four mature students reported having participated in education and training prior to engaging in higher education. Over half participated in a FET course, while 21% participated in a community education course.
  • When it comes to barriers to participation in higher education, current, former and prospective mature students from cited financial cost, followed by family responsibilities and commitments, distances and a lack of flexible study options.

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