UK jobs vacancies rise above 1m for first time ever

ended 13. September 2021

The number of job vacancies rose above 1m for the first time ever, according to the latest Office for National Statistics jobs data published this morning. 

Key points from this morning's report:

  • The number of job vacancies in June to August 2021 was 1,034,000, and is now 249,000 above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic January to March 2020 level.
  • The unemployment rate fell from 4.7% to 4.6% in the three months to July.
  • August payrolls showed a further monthly increase of 241k to 29.1 million in total.
  • Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 8.3% and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6.8% among employees for the three months May to July 2021.

Reaction from small businesses

Reflecting on the data, Kieran Boyle, Managing Director at Gloucester-based CKB Recruitment, says he has "never seen such a busy jobs market in my 15 years in the industry”, something mirrored by Gary Parsons, Managing Director at Belper-based recruitment and HR experts, Talk Staff: “We are seeing a record number of jobs out there but businesses are struggling to secure the talent they need.”

Wake up and smell the coffee

Though the jobs data paints a pretty picture on the surface, there are serious underlying issues. Kate Underwood of Southampton-based Kate Underwood HR & Training, talks of the “massive skills shortage due to Brexit and the Pandemic. I have recently had 200 people apply for a role in less than six hours and 100 of them had the skills to do the job.”

She adds that "the tax hike in April is going to put a lot of employers off taking on new staff, especially among small businesses who were hardest hit by the pandemic. The Government has failed to understand how it will impact those that are already struggling. It needs to wake up and smell the coffee."

The Great Resignation

Karen Watkins, founder of Somerset-based Rowan Consulting, also points to problems in the future: "The next major inflection point for the jobs market will be the Great Resignation. People are now choosing to leave employers through choice rather than necessity to pursue new goals and working environments after the pandemic. This has the potential for a bigger longer term impact than the end of furlough. For companies, meaningful employee engagement and retention have never been more important." 

Cheney Hamilton, CEO at Darlington-based flexible working recruiter, Find Your Flex, is also witnessing the result of pandemic-induced job changes: “We are seeing spikes of job seekers, in particular in London. This is a result of offices re-opening and the proposed 9% rise in rail fares.”

Translate: people aren't so keen on being chained to their desks all over again and paying daft money to get into London on the Choo Choo.

Chancellor wades in

Whenever positive data drops, the Chancellor will wade in to take full credit as sure as night follows day, and so Rishi emerged from Number 11 in clockwork fashion to announce that “today's statistics show that our plan for jobs is working.”

Working for now, Rishi.

The fact remains that we've the furlough scheme is coming to an end this month and tax rises are kicking in next year, which will hit small businesses hard. The jobs market may have won this latest battle, but the war is far from over.

Full reaction from the Newspage community below….

6 responses from the Newspage community

Star Quote
"How the jobs market feels depends entirely on the sector you are in. Overall, it is very busy but there is a massive skills shortage due to Brexit and the Pandemic. I have had 200 people apply for a role in less than six hours and 100 of them had the skills to do the job. "The tax hike in April is going to put a lot of employers off taking on new staff as it is going to have a huge impact, especially on small businesses who were hardest hit by the pandemic. The Government has failed to understand how it will impact those that are already struggling. It needs to wake up and smell the coffee."
"The jobs market is in turmoil. Depending on which industry you are in, as a prospective employee sometimes you are getting to call the shots on your salary due to a lack of people suitable for the jobs that are out there. The flip side of the coin is that there is soon to be a huge amount of furloughed employees back on the jobs market without the skills necessary to adapt to a new type of role now they are effectively, in the true meaning of the word, redundant. "Where companies have vacancies and a real consumer demand for their services, they are much more readily taking on new headcount at this time - way more than they were a few months ago during the last lockdown. It’s a short term supply and demand game that is being played though. "What the past 18 months has taught us is that we can rely on nothing to turn out as we might expect. So I suspect that a large proportion of businesses are just hoping for the best and plunging on in with what they think is the right thing to do. This week’s tax hikes will have an impact on the working population. It will push the finances of employees and employers alike. If ever there was a way to massage the jobs market to get it going again, breaking the manifesto promise to leave NI contributions alone was not the tactic to take.
"Despite increased confidence in hiring, the challenge of lack of quality candidates in areas such as manufacturing, engineering and digital tech coupled with the rising demand for higher salaries remains a huge frustration for many of our clients looking to grow. For some, the tax hike announced last week won’t blunt demand, as it’s a necessity for growth. "The next major inflection point for the jobs market will be the Great Resignation. People are now choosing to leave employers through choice rather than necessity to pursue new goals and working environments after the pandemic. This has the potential for a bigger longer term impact than the end of furlough. For companies, meaningful employee engagement and retention has never been more important."
"I have never seen such a busy job market in my 15 years in the industry. Speaking to other recruiters, and in my own experience, there seems to be a massive candidate shortage across the country and within multiple sectors. Specialising in insurance recruitment, we don't think furlough ending will have any major effects, as we have been lucky enough to be attached to a very robust industry, which has ridden out the pandemic remarkably well."
We are seeing a record number of jobs out there, but businesses are struggling to secure the talent they need. Skilled and experienced individuals are most in demand, but they’re typically already in roles and not actively looking to move. As the furlough scheme comes to an end, experienced and skilled people will quickly be able to pick up jobs in what is an incredibly buoyant market. We’ve noted that organisations are being slightly less aggressive in their recruiting activities as uncertainty begins to creep in - they can’t be sure whether this demand and growth will continue, so they’re needing to focus on sustainable hiring. Another significant trend is salary spiralling. Businesses are so anxious to bring in talent that they are bolstering salaries for new hires. But this can have a negative knock-on effect down the line, causing problems with existing staff. It’s a very narrow view of a wider problem - organisations should be looking at other ways to attract the best talent other than just making it about money. Employers need to expand and strengthen their hiring activities if they want to attract talent, especially as unemployment figures tighten and they become more in demand than we have seen for a long time. Relying on old methods just doesn’t cut it any more - they need to be shouting from the rooftops about what it’s like to work at their companies long before they begin advertising jobs.
"The UK job market from a flexible working perspective on jobs.findyourflex.co.uk is looking solid. We’ve seen a 300% lift in job seeker activity and with the end of furlough insight we expect that to lift again. Employers are getting prepared to increase their Retail Vacancies, given the usual run up to Christmas activity and we are also seeing this from many Service providers like EE and Screwfix. There still seems to be a glut of 45+ aged candidates on the job market, but the 25-44 aged group (which largely stagnated during the pandemic to maintain job security) is growing exponentially as some flexibility in the workplace is withdrawn, we are seeing spike of numbers in particular in London – this follows sites ‘re-opening’ and the proposed 9% rise in rail fairs. Minimum wage roles, continue to struggle for applicants and more support from government, particularly in the health care sector where we have seen thousands of candidates having to re-career from mid Sept. due to the No Jab No Job ruling."