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Week five of lockdown: news from the graduate labour market

April 2020

Five weeks into lockdown Prospects' head of higher education intelligence, Charlie Ball, highlights new research and findings on the impact of the lockdown on the graduate labour market

The last week was a little less busy with analysis as organisations start to adapt for the medium term. Here is Luminate's roundup of data and analysis on the UK graduate labour market.

  • Strong trends are starting to emerge and it may soon be possible to make reasonable evidence-based predictions about the impact of the pandemic on graduate recruitment in the longer term.
  • Hiring is unquestionably seriously affected but there are still many vacancies.
  • Smaller businesses are really feeling the effects; larger graduate recruiters are generally coping reasonably well.
  • There's increasing evidence that different regions will be affected more than others and the cities with large graduate recruitment markets - particularly London - look to be faring better.
  • Recruiters are still holding job offers and while most seem to be fulfilled or at least still active, we continue to hear of some offers being reneged.

Graduate Prospects has surveyed students and graduates on their experience of the effect of the pandemic on their jobs and careers - results will be published soon. 11% reported losing a work placement or internship, 15% reported having a job offer deferred or cancelled and 15% lost their job. 29% reported considering a postgraduate course. 42% reported that they were taking a break from looking for work. In general, although differences were not large, younger and international respondents were more likely to report being affected.

The Centre for Cities has published analysis on the potential effects of the pandemic on different UK urban areas. This looks at how vulnerable local jobs are to lockdown and predicts that manufacturing centres such as Crawley, Luton and Derby, which have considerable aviation and automotive employment are much more exposed than regions with a different mix of employment - the Centre analysis shows Oxford, Worthing, Bradford, Cambridge and Leicester being less affected.

The Institute of Employment Studies is now publishing weekly analysis of job advertisements using Adzuna data. The most recent is to the week ending April 19th. They report that vacancies have halved since lockdown began and by April 19th there were 399,000 vacancies reported, down 76,000 on the previous week, with 53,000 new vacancies added in the week.

Jonathan Boyes of the Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards has published an interesting analysis of the potential effects of the pandemic on the apprenticeship sector. He notes that apprentices are generally less able to work remotely than other workers, and that survey findings suggest that apprentices may be losing their positions more quickly than some other workers. The number of available apprenticeships looks set to fall significantly, possibly around 30%, over the next few months but there may be support that employers and sector bodies can offer that can mitigate some of the impact.

More analysis of UK vacancies from Indeed's Hiring Lab, this time to 16th April also show a significant fall in vacancies (although Indeed do note you would normally expect to see a fall in vacancies over the Easter period), with the UK one of the most affected countries internationally. Again beauty, hospitality and tourism, customer service and childcare roles are most affected, roles like law, construction and finance in line with national averages, and healthcare roles are the least affected. Indeed's data, like the IES analysis of Adzuna data, seems to show London as being the least affected location at this point.

LinkedIn's hiring data to April 14th has slightly different findings. Vacancies are down 39% on the previous year. Healthcare is the least affected industry – in fact, LinkedIn data has it growing, and across a whole range of roles from frontline hospital positions to medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Software and IT, networking and hardware, retail, finance and not-for-profit positions have fallen, but below the national average while LinkedIn's data suggests a significant impact on manufacturing, construction and recreation and travel.

Overall, a picture seems to be emerging about the UK graduate labour market, although some aspects seem unclear:

  • There is no doubt that it is seriously affected, but the non-graduate jobs market appears to be bearing the brunt of the effects right now.
  • There is still hiring going on and new vacancies being created. Volume is down but activity has not ceased.
  • Smaller businesses are having a more difficult time of it and larger businesses seem to be adapting.
  • Regions are being affected differently, with strong evidence emerging that London is faring better than most regions.
  • There are concerns that the apprenticeship market may be particularly hit but there may be measures that can be taken that could mitigate the impact.
  • Demand for postgraduate courses looks set to rise.
  • The worst-affected sectors seem to include hospitality, beauty and catering. There are mixed messages from professional and technical services, with the data on construction being particularly hard to read, but hiring does seem to be down a fair amount in at least some parts of those sectors. Healthcare of all kinds, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not seeing the same issues and there are indications that financial services and parts of IT look to be coping better than some sectors as well.

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