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UK graduate labour market update: 26 May

May 2020

Prospects' head of higher education intelligence, Charlie Ball, provides his weekly update on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the graduate labour market 

What we're hearing that’s not necessarily covered in the reports below:

  • The fall in vacancies appears to have stabilised for the time being but eyes are now on later in the summer when the furloughing scheme changes.
  • However, there is some concern that this modest recovery might be largely driven by healthcare roles for which most graduates are not qualified.
  • We shouldn't expect much graduate recruitment from many SMEs for now.
  • Taught postgraduate recruitment looks like it will increase, but some prospective students are not enthusiastic about online delivery.
  • A focus on health and allied health professionals (occupational therapy, dieticians, physiotherapists, radiologists) looks likely over the next few months as we went into the pandemic short of them and this is having a serious effect. Likewise, social care.
  • Some employers may stagger their annual graduate intake and could recruit in the autumn if trading conditions have improved. Some have decided to cease graduate recruitment. A minority have cancelled offers, but others are still working out if and when they will rescind, and some have still yet to make decisions.

Prospects traffic update

We continue to monitor our own web traffic to give a pointer on job and course search activity. Last week’s data is as follows.

  • Users: 13% up (compared to expected traffic levels).
  • Job searches: 3.3% up (actual YoY).
  • Course searches: 45.6% up (actual YoY).

Traffic continued to grow last week, now recording at above expected levels. Course searches are still up significantly on last year, adding more weight to the theory that more of our users are considering PG study. 

Job searches last week were 3.3% up on the same period last year and clicks to apply were up 52.91%. We haven't seen any significant difference to where our clicks are coming from, with the majority still coming from organic search.

Professor Anna Vignoles and Professor Simon Burgess have written this short piece for the Campaign for Social Science. Anything they write is worth reading. Key sections for students and graduates cover the impact of the pandemic on apprenticeships. They also articulate increasingly widespread concerns about the labour market in sectors such as hospitality and retail, and the affect that will have on students (particularly students from less affluent backgrounds) who rely on paid term-time work to fund their studies.

Jack Blundell and Stephen Machin of the LSE have released a very timely report on the impact of the pandemic on the self-employed. Three in four had less work in April than usual. Average hours fell from 31-40 per week last year to 11-20 per week. And over 60% of the self-employed earned less than £1,000 in April.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), working with EMSI, have launched a new initiative - the Jobs Recovery Tracker. It found that there were around 950,000 unique job adverts in the UK between 11 and 17 May 2020, and that demand for health professionals (+9.2%), roofers, tilers and slaters (+5.4%, although from a low base), pharmaceutical technicians (+ 4.9%), artists (+4.1%, also from a low base),  pharmacists (+3.9%), and speech therapists (+3.8%) saw the largest increases.

609 businesses (98% SMEs) were surveyed for British Chambers of Commerce's COVID-19 impact tracker to 15 May . 70% of businesses have furloughed staff. 50% of firms say they have three months or less cash flow in reserve. 6% have run out of cash. 82% of firms say they are in a position to implement government guidelines and wholly or partially return to operation. 10% say they cannot restart.

The Institute of Employment Studies analysis of Adzuna vacancies to the 17 May reported a further fall to 316,000 from 329,000  vacancies. New vacancies notified in the week to 17 May were the highest since the end of March though. Social work and healthcare and nursing jobs have seen the smallest falls in vacancy numbers. The five areas of sales, hospitality/catering, administration, consultancy, and HR/recruitment remain the areas with the largest falls. Higher paid jobs, where people are more likely to be able to work from home, have taken a smaller hit compared to those offering lower pay.

The IES have also released this paper, on youth employment, suggesting steps to take to avert a significant rise in long-term unemployment amongst young workers, including a significant investment in high quality careers guidance and support. 

LinkedIn have also reported on hiring, mainly in the US, but with some UK information. They also report a stabilisation in hiring, with rates rising then falling from the Easter holiday - but without the sharp decline seen in March.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies have also analysed job vacancies, using the DWP's 'Find A Job' site. It appears as if vacancy numbers may be recovering, but possibly fuelled by vacancies in health and social care (now at 85% of their 2019 levels) in relatively affluent parts of the country. In all other occupations, new vacancies stood at 26% of their 2019 levels in the first week of May. The IFS also note that the areas in demand require high levels of training.

In summary

  • The graduate labour market is severely affected but things are far worse for non-graduates.
  • However, new entrants to the labour market who are leaving education are being particularly badly hit.
  • Job creation activity is down on last year but may have stabilised.
  • The most heavily affected sectors are primarily employers of non-graduates, with one exception - the badly-hit arts industry. Other important graduate recruiting industries taking a hit include manufacturing and construction, although not all subsectors have been as badly affected.
  • Things are also looking difficult for the self-employed although that may be partly because a lot work in sectors such as the arts that have been heavily disrupted.
  • The sectors experiencing less disruption are heavy recruiters of graduates. Health and social care have only seen modest falls in activity and IT and professional. Services also seem to be faring better and these sectors are likely to lead a recovery.
  • Many businesses feel they can get back to operation quickly once restrictions are eased.

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