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UK graduate labour market update: 9 February

February 2021

Charlie Ball provides his regular update on the graduate labour market, summarising the key highlights from the week's news, data and research

Welcome to the latest instalment of our round-up of the week's developments in the UK graduate labour market, brought to you by Prospects Luminate at Jisc.

The latest round of the ONS fast response experimental statistics on the impact of COVID were released on the 4 February.

  • According to initial results from the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, 12% of currently trading UK businesses said that turnover had decreased by more than 50% compared with what is normally expected for this time of year.
  • According to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (week ending 31 January), 36% of working adults in Great Britain worked exclusively from home in the last seven days - the highest proportion since June.
  • 46% of the working population had worked at home at some point in the last week.
  • According to Adzuna, in the week ending 29 January 2021, the volume of UK online job adverts increased by four percentage points from the previous week to 78% of the level seen in the same week last year.
  • Online job adverts increased in 22 out of the 28 categories from the previous week. 'Legal' saw the largest weekly increase of 17 percentage points, followed by 'domestic help', which saw a weekly increase of 14 percentage points, and 'scientific/QA', which saw an increase of 12 percentage points. The volume of job adverts for 'catering and hospitality' remained unchanged from the previous week and continues to be the lowest volume of job adverts when compared with its level last year, at 24%.
  • As suspected, last week's extremely strong showing for London seems to have been an anomaly. Between 22 January and 29 January 2021, the volume of online job adverts in London fell substantially by 22 percentage points to 63% of its level in the same week of last year.
  • Northern Ireland saw a strong increase in the volume of online job adverts from last week, increasing by 22 percentage points to 120% of the volume seen this time last year. The North East, West Midlands and Scotland also saw strong weekly increases of 19 percentage points to 105%, 90% and 83% of the volume seen in the same week last year, respectively. Wales saw a weekly increase of 11 percentage points to 84% of the volume seen last year.

In the wake of recent labour market data releases, the House of Commons library have updated their regular summary of the effects of COVID on the UK labour market.

The latest KPMG and REC UK Report on Jobs survey was released on 4 February:

  • A third national lockdown amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, and a subsequent drop in market confidence, led to a renewed contraction in permanent staff placements during January.
  • Growth in short-term vacancies moderated.
  • The supply of candidates rose solidly in January, despite the rate of increase easing to a ten-month low. The slowdown was driven by softer expansions in both permanent and temporary candidate numbers. Recruiters frequently mentioned that redundancies had pushed up staff supply. However, there were also reports that greater uncertainty over the outlook had weighed on candidates' appetite for new roles.
  • Demand for permanent staff declined across both the private and public sectors, with the latter registering the steeper rate of contraction. Temporary staff vacancies rose further in the private sector, albeit to a much weaker extent than in December, and were broadly stable in the public sector.
  • January data revealed that demand for permanent staff fell in six of the ten categories monitored by the survey, led by Hotel and Catering, and Retail. Of the areas that noted higher vacancies, Nursing/Medical/Care registered the steepest increase.

All age groups view work/life balance and job security as more important job priorities than salary and promotion.

City and Guilds Group, in association with Burning Glass, have released a new report, examining the barriers that are preventing people from switching careers. Building Bridges to Future Jobs was published on 4 February:

  • According to the report, 32% of those surveyed had no idea where else their current skillset might be useful and, when asked to consider changing careers to move into new industries, 34% were concerned about starting over again, 21% said they lacked knowledge of other sectors, and 19% expressed an overall lack of confidence.
  • Those aged 25 to 34 are most reluctant to change careers, finding the lack of knowledge of other jobs (31%), worries about starting all over again (41%), the cost of retraining (21%), and the salaries of other careers (32%) more concerning than any other age group. 11% are seeking change because the pandemic has fundamentally altered their current jobs.
  • 18% of respondents said that they were prevented from switching careers by the cost of retraining - 26% said that they were at least 'fairly likely' to pay for their own retraining.
  • 21% have been in their current career for over 20 years, 14% for 15 to 20 years and 14% for 10 to 15 years.
  • 32% had previously changed careers.
  • 47% of 35-44 year olds wanted to change career.
  • All age groups view work/life balance and job security as more important job priorities than salary and promotion.

The CBI surveyed 267 SME manufacturing firms between 16 December and 13 January for their quarterly SME Trends survey.

Output in the three months to January stabilised (-2% from -15% in October). This followed July's record quick decline (-53%). A slight decline (-6%) is expected in the coming quarter.

  • Total new orders in the three months to January declined (-7% from -1% in October). Domestic orders fell slightly (-6% from +3%) while export orders grew at the fastest pace in two years (+10% from –19%).
  • Manufacturers expect total new orders to fall at a similar pace over the coming quarter (-10%), with declines in both domestic (-21%) and export (-10%) orders. Numbers employed fell again (-16%), but at a slower pace than in the previous two quarters.
  • Employment is expected to stabilise in the coming quarter with overall 0% growth.
  • Business sentiment in the quarter to October deteriorated (-8% from +1% in October). Export optimism also fell, but at a slower pace than in previous quarters (-10% from –24%).

The Institute of Fiscal Studies have looked at the economic impact of COVID on a geographic basis:

  • England's second national lockdown, in November, was associated with a more muted impact on the labour market than the first lockdown. In particular, employment, earnings and claims for unemployment-related benefits were similar to earlier in the autumn. The share of workers furloughed did increase from 7% to around 13%, but this compares with around 30% during the first lockdown. This may reflect the shorter and less stringent nature of the second lockdown though, and the current third lockdown may have a larger effect.
  • All regions of the UK have seen substantial falls in the number of employees in paid work, ranging from 1.4% in Northern Ireland, between 2% and 3% in most regions of England, to 5.5% in London. Moreover, even prior to the second lockdown, approximately 6% to 7% of employees were furloughed in most parts of England, including around 7.5% in the North West and 10% in London. Data from Money Dashboard also suggest that overall household incomes have fallen in all regions, with the largest falls in the South and Midlands of England.

The Institute of Employment Studies have published a new report, Working Under Covid-19 Lockdown: Transitions and Tensions, looking at how organisations and workforces adapted and learned from working from home under the initial lockdown:

  • 88.5% of employees felt that they had got more work done or as much done as in the office.
  • 64% of workers rated the ability to work flexibly as the best feature of working from home.
  • 82% miss informal contact with their colleagues. It's this social deficit that workers feel is the worst aspect of working from home.
  • Maintaining this high productivity during the pandemic takes its toll, with responses on mental health ranking at 47 out of 100 which is low as measured by the WHO5 global standard.

People aged 35+ are a lot more likely to think that working from home is better for their health and wellbeing compared with 18 to 34 year-olds.

On a similar note, the Royal Society for Public Health have released Disparity Begins at Home: How home working is impacting the public's health:

  • Prior to COVID-19 around 5% of the public worked from home. According to the survey around 6% now want to go back to the office full time.
  • 74% of office workers want to split their time between working from home and working in an office.
  • Nearly half of all respondents said they thought that working from home was better for their overall health and wellbeing.
  • However, working from home can lead to people developing health or health related issues, with the most common including: social isolation from not seeing colleagues, getting less exercise, musculoskeletal problems, and disrupted sleep: 67% of respondents said they felt less connected with their colleagues; 56% of respondents said that working from home made it harder to 'switch off' at the end of the day; 52% of respondents said they found it harder to take regular breaks when they worked from home.
  • One of the biggest contributors to health disparities is the amount of space someone has to work in. People who work from their bedroom or sofa are more likely to report experiencing musculoskeletal issues, feeling disconnected from their colleagues, and having disrupted sleep than people who work from a desk, table or home office.
  • People who worked in a house share with at least one housemate were more likely to experience musculoskeletal problems, undertake less exercise and feel more isolated than people who live with their partner.
  • People aged 35+ were a lot more likely to think that working from home was better for their health and wellbeing compared to 18 to 34 year-olds (48% v. 34%).
  • Women are more likely than men to experience health or health-related issues related to working from home, including: feeling isolated (58% of women v. 39% of men); developing musculoskeletal problems (44% of women v. 29% of men).
  • However, they were more likely to experience positive financial health (52% of women v. 38% of men).
  • 38% of respondents were offered flexible working to accommodate non-work commitments such as childcare and 34% of people were offered some form of support with their mental health.
  • Better financial health was one of the most common positive outcomes of people who worked from home, with 47% of survey respondents saying they had experienced better financial health (saving more money/ spending less money).
  • The benefits of home working - including lower infection risk and better financial health - are more often available to those from more affluent socioeconomic backgrounds, and there is a danger of exacerbating inequality.

The nursery care provider Bright Horizons have released their Modern Families Index Spotlight survey of 1,000 working parents.

  • 40% felt that the pandemic/lockdown had had a negative effect on their mental health (46% of women; 33% of men).
  • 58% of people agreed that their organisation cared about their work life balance, and 59% that their manager cared about this.
  • 75% want to continue to work from home for at least some of the time, with 67% wanting to work at least 50% from home.
  • 16% would like to work fully in an office or workplace while 18% would like to work 100% from home.

And Indeed's Hiring Lab have returned to the fray with their latest examination of vacancy data to January 29:

  • Job postings were 39.1% below the 1 February 2020, pre-pandemic baseline, seasonally adjusted, as of 29 January 2021. That was a slight gain from a week earlier, when postings were 40.5% below the baseline.
  • The only category where job postings are above their pre-pandemic baseline is medical technicians (up 5%). Personal care and home health is the next most resilient category (with postings down 6%), followed by nursing, manufacturing, and community and social service.
  • The weakest performers are sectors heavily impacted by social distancing like food preparation and service (down 83%), beauty and wellness (down 82%) and hospitality and tourism (down 77%). The sports category, which includes coaches, fitness instructors and golf professionals, is down 61%, having seen a particularly sharp deterioration since the start of January.
  • Regionally, job postings are down most in the South East, followed by Northern Ireland, Scotland and London. The North East and West Midlands are closest to the pre-pandemic baseline.
  • Indeed continue to make their raw data available on GitHub.

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