Today ONS are publishing their first set of labour market statistics giving some indication of what was happening to earnings and employment as lockdown started. To complement that IFS is launching a new report on another crucial aspect of the labour market: what has been happening to vacancies. Our research uses up to date real time data from DWP’s Find a Job website to track vacancy levels across all sectors of the economy and regions of the country.
We find that new job vacancies have collapsed almost everywhere, with only tentative recovery driven by health and jobs that require extensive training.
We find that:
- By the time the lockdown was announced, firms had stopped posting new vacancies almost entirely. New postings on 25 March were 92% down on their levels in 2019.
- Vacancies fell across the wage distribution. The fall was sharpest in low-paid occupations directly affected by social distancing measures, but new vacancies for higher-paid jobs in legal and managerial professions also saw falls of over 60% relative to 2019.
- There have been some tentative signs of recovery since mid-April, but this has been almost entirely driven by vacancies in health and social care. Health and social care vacancies rebounded from half their 2019 levels in the first week of April to 85% of their 2019 levels in the first week of May.
- In all other occupations, new vacancies in the first week of April were 80% down on their 2019 levels, and still 75% down on their 2019 levels in the first week of May.
- Whilst the initial drop in job postings was evenly distributed across more and less deprived areas, the recovery in health and social care vacancies has been concentrated in more affluent areas. New health and social care vacancies in the least deprived fifth of local authorities (measured by their Index of Multiple Deprivation) were 15% lower than their 2019 levels in the first week of May, whilst those in the most deprived fifth still 35% lower.
- The health and social care occupations in which vacancies are recovering pose relatively high health risks. They are relatively difficult to do from home, involving working in close physical proximity to others and are more exposed to disease.
- The new jobs that are emerging require high levels of training. Jobs in health and social care require a high level of training, but even outside healthcare, labour demand has recovered more in occupations that require higher levels of preparation. This suggests that workers who have been furloughed or made unemployed are likely to struggle to fill vacancies in areas where labour demand is recovering.
The information presented here will be updated and extended regularly as new data becomes available.
Xiaowei Xu, a Senior Research Economist at IFS and an author of the briefing note, said:
“Job vacancies almost completely dried up in March and are now only tentatively recovering in the health and social care sector and barely at all in other parts of the economy. Health and care jobs generally require a high level of training, which means that workers who have been furloughed or made unemployed will struggle to fill these jobs. For those who remain employed, the collapse in job vacancies will severely limit their ability to move between jobs, which is an important channel for wage progression especially among younger workers.
The fact that there has been no recovery in vacancies in the most deprived local authorities is also worrying, especially because it will be risky to travel far for work on public transport.”