Vacancies and jobs in the UK: April 2020

Estimates of the number of vacancies and jobs for the UK.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

21 April 2020

The effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our capacity means we have reviewed the existing labour market releases and will be suspending some publications.

This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining labour market outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of COVID-19. More details about the impact on labour market outputs can be found in our statement.

This is an accredited National Statistic. Click for information about types of official statistics.

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Release date:
21 April 2020

Next release:
19 May 2020

1. Other pages in this release

Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:

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2. Main points

  • Vacancy estimates presented in this bulletin are based on specific count dates each month; in March 2020, this was the 6th, prior to the implementation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing measures.

  • There were an estimated 795,000 vacancies in the UK in January to March 2020; this is 6,000 fewer than the previous quarter (not a statistically significant change) and 52,000 fewer than a year earlier.

  • The annual fall of 52,000 vacancies is the tenth consecutive annual decrease.

  • For December 2019, there were an estimated 35.83 million jobs in the UK; this is an increase of 67,000 jobs compared with September 2019 and an increase of 541,000 jobs when compared with the same period the previous year.

  • The increase of 67,000 jobs was caused by self-employed jobs, which increased by 74,000 when compared with September 2019; employee jobs fell by 13,000 over the same period.


The data in this bulletin come from surveys of businesses. It is not feasible to survey every business in the UK, so these statistics are estimates based on samples, not precise figures.

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3. Vacancies for January to March 2020

The monthly Vacancy Survey asks businesses for the number of external vacancies on a specified count date. The headline series is based on three-month rolling averages. The latest data are for the period January to March 2020, and the latest count date was 6 March 2020. The responses sought from businesses are therefore prior to the commencement of UK social distancing measures.

For the three-month rolling average of vacancies, the standard errors are around 10,000 (1.5% expressed as a coefficient of variation), giving a 95% confidence interval of plus or minus 20,000.

The estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell sharply during the recession of 2008 to 2009. Since 2012, it has generally increased, reaching a record high of 855,000 in November 2018 to January 2019. For January to March 2020, there were an estimated 795,000 vacancies in the UK; this is 6,000 fewer than in the previous quarter (October to December 2019), which is not a statistically significant change, and 52,000 fewer than a year earlier.

For January to March 2020, it is estimated that:

  • the sectors showing the largest annual falls were “manufacturing”, “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” and “professional, scientific and technical activities”, all falling by an estimated 8,000, and “information and communication”, which fell by an estimated 7,000 compared with a year earlier

  • there were 135,000 vacancies in the “human health and social work activities” sector (making it the largest sector for the eleventh consecutive period), an estimated decrease of 1,000 compared with a year earlier; this accounted for 17.0% of all vacancies in the UK

  • the sectors showing the largest quarterly decreases were “professional, scientific and technical” decreasing by 4,000 and “administrative and support service activities” and “human health and social work activities” both decreasing by 3,000 compared with the three months to December 2019

  • there were 2.6 job vacancies per 100 employee jobs across the economy as a whole

  • the sector showing the highest vacancy rate was “accommodation and food service activities”, with 3.7 vacancies per 100 employee jobs

  • the sector showing the lowest vacancy rate was “water supply, sewerage, waste and remediation activities” at 1.5 job vacancies per 100 employee jobs

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4. Jobs for December 2019 (first published on 17 March 2020)

The jobs data and accompanying datasets relate to the December 2019 period before reported cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.

The number of jobs is not the same as the number of people in employment. This is because a person can have more than one job. Estimates for the number of people in employment are available in Employment in the UK.

It is estimated that:

  • the number of jobs has been generally increasing since 2013

  • there were a record high 35.83 million jobs in the UK in December 2019; this is 67,000 more than in September 2019 and 541,000 higher than in December 2018

  • the largest sector, with an estimated 4.97 million jobs, was the “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” sector in December 2019; this represents 13.9% of total jobs in December 2019

  • the next largest sector was “human health and social work”, with 4.48 million jobs in December 2019

  • several sectors were at a record high in December 2019, including “education” (2.98 million jobs), “accommodation and food service activities” (2.51 million jobs), “information and communication” (1.54 million jobs) and “other service activities” (1.01 million jobs)

The sectors showing the largest estimated annual increase in jobs were “human health and social work” (up 117,000 on the year) and “professional, scientific and technical” (up 83,000 on the year).

There were two sectors showing annual decreases in jobs; these were “construction” (down 34,000 on the year) and “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” (down 33,000 on the year).

The sector showing the largest estimated quarterly increase in jobs was “construction”. Total construction jobs increased by 44,000. Of this, self-employed jobs increased by 31,000 and employee jobs increased by 14,000.

There were several sectors showing estimated quarterly decreases in jobs. The largest sectors were “professional, scientific and technical activities” (down by 22,000 on the quarter) and “administrative and support service activities” (down by 19,000 on the quarter).

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5. Vacancies and jobs data

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 21 April 2020
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 17 March 2020
Estimates of jobs by type of job (including employee jobs, self-employment jobs, HM Forces and government-supported trainees).

Workforce jobs by industry
Dataset JOBS02 | Released 17 March 2020
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007)

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6. Glossary


Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking recruits from outside their business or organisation. The estimates are based on the Vacancy Survey; this is a survey of businesses designed to provide estimates of the stock of vacancies across the economy, excluding “agriculture, forestry and fishing” (a small sector for which the collection of estimates would not be practical).


A job is an activity performed for an employer or customer by a worker in exchange for payment, usually in cash, or in kind, or both. The number of jobs is not the same as the number of people in employment. This is because a person can have more than one job. The number of jobs is the sum of employee jobs from employer surveys, self-employment jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), those in HM Forces and government-supported trainees. The number of people in employment is measured by the LFS; these estimates are available in our Employment in the UK release.

A more detailed glossary is available.

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7. Measuring the data

After EU withdrawal

As the UK leaves the EU, it is important that our statistics continue to be of high quality and are internationally comparable. During the transition period, those UK statistics that align with EU practice and rules will continue to do so in the same way as before 31 January 2020.

After the transition period, we will continue to produce our labour market statistics in line with the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) definitions and agreed international statistical guidance.

Estimates of jobs are compiled from a number of sources, including Short-Term Employment Surveys (STES), the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS). STES is a group of surveys that collect employment and turnover information from private sector businesses. In December of each year, the jobs estimates are “benchmarked” to the latest estimates from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES).

Estimates of vacancies are obtained from the Vacancy Survey, a survey of employers.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Vacancy Survey and Workforce jobs QMI reports.

Upcoming changes

The next vacancies and jobs bulletin (19 May 2020) will include revisions to estimates of vacancies for January to March 2020 and February to April 2019. Revisions result from taking on board late and corrected information from contributors to the Vacancy Survey and re-seasonal adjustment to the previous year’s estimate. This process is outlined in the Vacancy Survey QMI.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In response to the developing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are working to ensure that we continue to publish economic statistics. For more information, please see COVID-19 and the production of statistics.

We have reviewed all publications and data published as part of the labour market release in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to the postponement of some publications and datasets to ensure that we can continue to publish our main labour market data. This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of COVID-19.

Ahead of the latest labour market statistics release, David Freeman, head of labour market statistics at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), has looked at how the ONS is responding to the pressing need for new information in his blog, Measuring the labour market during Coronavirus.

For more information on how labour market data sources, among others, will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, see the statement published on 27 March 2020.

Data in this statistical bulletin and accompanying datasets relate to specific survey count dates, for vacancies in March 2020 this was the 6 March. The vacancy estimates for January to March 2020 and workforce jobs estimates for December 2019 are largely unaffected by recent developments.

Our latest data and analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy and population is now available on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage. This will be the hub for all special COVID-19-related publications, drawing on all available data.

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8. Strengths and limitations

Accuracy of the statistics: estimating and reporting uncertainty

The figures in this bulletin mainly come from surveys of businesses, which gather information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The samples are designed to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints. Results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.

As the number of people available in the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates that we can make from that sample size gets larger. Estimates for small groups (for example, vacancies in the construction industry), which are based on small subsets of the Vacancy Survey sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups (for example, total vacancies in the UK).

In general, short-term changes in the growth rates reported in this bulletin are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.

Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics.

Sampling variability information for jobs is available in Table 1 in this bulletin and in dataset JOBS07: Workforce jobs sampling variability.

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Laura Caldwell
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455955