Job adverts in the UK have reached a record high for 2022, despite economic challenges being expected to cause a slowdown in recruitment activity.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s (REC) latest Labour Market Tracker revealed that, in the week of 25-31 July, the number of active job adverts across the UK hit 1.85 million
It followed a slow but steady increase in postings since mid-June, when the number of new job adverts posted each week remained between 180,000 and 200,000 per week.
In the last week of July, 182,000 of the active job adverts were new postings – 22 per cent below the year’s highest figure of 234,000 recorded at the beginning of March.
However, the week still held the highest number of active jobs so this year, suggesting that the rising number of active postings overall likely reflects job adverts being left open for longer, as employers across the country have been struggling to attract candidates for their vacancies.
For this reason, the findings predict that despite labour shortages, rising inflation, and energy costs, there is no sign in sight that the jobs market was starting to contract.
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In terms of particular roles, the analysis identified the most significant increase in adverts for actors and entertainers (+13 per cent), driving instructors (+12.4 per cent), and dancers (+11.1 per cent) in the last week of July, with water and waste roles such as sewerage plant operatives also on the rise (+9.5 per cent).
In contrast, roles among probation officers (-10.4 per cent), hospital porters (-8.3 per cent), childminders (-6.6 per cent), and paramedics (-5.3 per cent) saw the biggest weekly decline in active job adverts.
Commenting on the findings, Kate Shoesmith, deputy CEO of the REC, said that the new data showed the continued strength of the jobs market, despite wider economic uncertainty.
As the number of job adverts being posted each week had been stable, Shoesmith said it was a “great time to be looking for work as a jobseeker, as employers are having to think more about the pay, benefits, conditions, and development opportunities they offer to both new starters and current staff, as they compete for talent”.
At the same time, with costs soaring, she warned there was a danger “employers will have to reprioritise as there is still no viable support package for businesses to meet these rising costs” and some employers’ confidence in the broader economy may start to drop.
Shoesmith suggested that “the government must play its role, both in supporting people and businesses through the current crisis, and also by working with the industry to create a sustainable labour market”.
Echoing this, John Gray, vice president of UK operations at Lightcast, said that this situation of a contracting economy, high inflation, yet employer hiring activity hitting record highs, was “highly unusual”.
While acknowledging that we were likely to see a slowdown in hiring activity, he suggested that the big questions hovering over the labour market in the coming months were how significant this slowdown will be, and whether we will also start to see employers laying off staff.
“So far we are not seeing any signs of either, and the labour market remains surprisingly tight given the adverse economic circumstances we are hearing about,” Gray added.
Despite the gloomy outlook, Jonathan Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, was not surprised by the current high number of job adverts and the forecasts of recession.
“The Bank of England does not expect the economy to enter recession until Q4 of this year, and unemployment won’t pick up until the middle of 2023,” he said, adding that this might be the reason why “for now, the labour market remains red hot”.
Reflecting on her experience in recruitment, Mandy Watson, managing director of Ambitions Personnel, said that the findings reflected what her organisation was seeing in practice, with client demand for talent being higher than ever – but recruiting being particularly tough.
“This is not limited to location or sector either, it’s pretty much across the board. Normally, September and October see a peak as production and manufacturing sectors gear up for Christmas, so I anticipate the number of live jobs could rise even further in the early part of Q4. Will these jobs be filled? That’s another question,” Watson said.
Neha Sawjani, business director at Business in the Community, in turn acknowledged that while organisations were striving to recruit talent in this turbulent environment, they needed to consider that today’s jobseekers were “different from the pre-pandemic workforce”.
She suggested that for employers to attract the talent they need, “they should try and offset costs, by offering remote working and flexible working hours where possible, as we’re all feeling the pinch”.
In addition, Sawjani advised that employers are transparent about pay and demonstrate they are committed to inclusion, by ensuring the recruitment process is open to a diverse talent pool.
“This is the time when employers can open their doors to disadvantaged candidates that might struggle to find jobs, such as due to their refugee status, having former convictions, or coming out of retirement”, she added.