COVID-19: Four big trends in the labour market right now

The labour market is seeing a lot of changes in light of the COVID-19 crisis, but what data is crucial to you as a recruiter and recruitment business leader?

To help you navigate through this period of unprecedented disruption, we look at the biggest trends in the UK labour market and what this means for you.

Trend 1: Big reduction in overall staff demand

The initial spread of coronavirus hit employers hard.

  • Clients’ confidence in making hiring and investment decisions fell by 21 percentage points between February and March (REC JobsOutlook).
  • Demand for both permanent and temporary workers in England during March fell for the first time since the global financial crisis in 2009. Permanent staff vacancies fell at a quicker pace than temporary job openings. Meanwhile, recruitment activity dropped at the quickest rate since 2009. (REC Report on Jobs).
  • In the period 7 March-1 April, there was a 15% reduction in the volume of job posting activity. This corresponds to a quarter of a million fewer online postings (Emsi UK).

    Reduced demand for staff has weighed on pay growth. Salaries awarded to newly placed permanent workers during March rose at the weakest pace since July 2016, while temporary wage inflation eased to its slowest for just over seven years (REC JobsOutlook).

Podcast: Big trends in the labour market during COVID-19 featuring labour market analysts Emsi UK

Trend 2: “Key” industries record higher vacancies

But industries central to the pandemic response have experienced hiring increases.

  • Demand in health & social care is increasing with some recruitment businesses finding it difficult to keep up and fill the roles. Nursing/medical/care posted higher levels of demand for both permanent and temporary staff in March than the month before (REC Report on Jobs).
  • Organisations that supply staff in logistics and across the food supply chain report higher demand. Blue collar saw higher levels of demand for temporary staff in March (REC Report on Jobs) while transportation & logistics reported a hiring increase of +6.9% compared with last year (LinkedIn).
  • Hardware & networking businesses that support the shift to remote work – the industry has reported one of the highest hiring increases (+5.6%) compared with last year (LinkedIn).

Trend 3: Clear disparity across occupations

While roles in health & social care, food & drink manufacturing, and logistics are holding well, demand in other industries has been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

  • Supermarkets have announced major hiring plans but this has been offset by wider challenges for high street retailers.
  • Sales and customer service jobs have fallen the fastest along with process plant and machine roles (Emsi UK).
  • Hiring rates in recreation travel (-47.1%) and entertainment (-25.8%) are well below the national average of -15% (LinkedIn).
  • Demand for programmers and software development professionals, as well as for chefs and catering roles has seen a big reduction (Emsi UK).

Visit our COVID-19 for guidance and updates specific to your sector

Trend 4: Regional discrepancies

  • Scotland and N. Ireland reported the biggest falls in job postings.
  • London is less affected, partly because it has a large proportion of professional services type industries making homeworking easier.
  • The lockdown has had a bigger effect in those regions where there is a larger concentration of manufacturing and heavy industry, and face-to-face industries (Emsi UK).

Though the latest data demonstrate the scale of the challenge, they also highlight new opportunities and the important role recruiters can play in supplying staff in critical sectors.

What should I do now as a recruitment business leader?

This is the time for you to:

  • review plans and diversify activities
  • identify the skills people have from previous roles in order to transfer them to new high-demand roles
  • flood those quick-growth areas and responding industries, including temporary and interim markets, with consultants.

We have a range of business guides that can help you with risk planning and financial management. They were often written in response to the Great Recession, but the lessons really resonate with these times. Download them here.

We will continue to share insights and provide clarity on the impact to the labour market and our industry through our monthly Report on Jobs and JobsOutlook. To get free and unlimited access to these, get in touch with us

Image credit | iStock


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