The vacancies recovery has slowed in October to December 2020, with an estimated quarterly increase of 81,000 vacancies to 578,000, the quarterly increase is half of that in July to September 2020.
The smallest businesses, with one to nine employees, have only 1,000 (0.8%) fewer vacancies than a year ago; despite a quarterly increase of 35,000 (22.3%) vacancies for the largest businesses with 2,500 or more employees, estimated vacancies are still 95,000 (33.0%) less than a year ago.
Accommodation and food services has been impacted by the further lockdowns and restrictions across the UK at the end of 2020, with an estimated quarterly decrease of 7,000 vacancies and estimated vacancies 68.9% lower than a year ago
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security and construction are the only sectors with an estimated annual increase in vacancies.
Human health and social work activities remains the largest sector in terms of both vacancy level (128,000) and ratio (3.1) and accounts for 22.2% of all vacancies.
The number of jobs had been generally increasing since 2013, but fell by 475,000 to an estimated 34.68 million jobs in the UK in September 2020; this was the largest quarterly fall since records began in June 1959 - these job figures were first published on the 15 December 2020.
The monthly Vacancy Survey asks businesses for the number of external vacancies on a specified count date used for three-month rolling averages. Count dates for the latest data, October to December 2020, are 2 October, 6 November and 4 December 2020. The count date for March was 6 March 2020, therefore the period January to March 2020 is prior to the start of coronavirus social distancing measures.
The estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell sharply during the recession of 2008 to 2009. Since 2013, it has generally increased, reaching a record high of 855,000 in November 2018 to January 2019. Vacancies remained at a high level until the start of coronavirus social distancing measures, where they fell more sharply than during the recession.
The sharp decline in vacancies at the start of the pandemic was initially followed by signs of a quick and sustained recovery, however the recovery slowed in the autumn as further restrictions and national lockdowns were introduced. In October to December there were an estimated 578,000 vacancies, which is a quarterly increase of 81,000 vacancies. This was the smallest quarterly increase since July to September. The estimated vacancies for the smallest businesses, with one to nine employees, are almost back to vacancy levels of a year ago at 0.8% lower. The largest businesses with 2,500 or more employees had the largest quarterly increase of 35,000 vacancies since July to September. Despite the increase, estimated vacancies remain below the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels for larger businesses and are 95,000 (33.0%) less than a year ago and estimated total vacancies are 224,000 (27.9%) less than a year ago.
The vacancy headline estimate is based on a seasonally adjusted, three-month moving average and has National Statistics status. Single-month vacancy estimates are available in Dataset X06. They should be used with caution as they are experimental, non-seasonally adjusted statistics and should not be considered accurate estimates of vacancies in the reported months, because of the high volatility caused by the survey sample design (see Strengths and limitations).
The three-month average non-seasonally adjusted series in Figure 2 is more volatile than the seasonally adjusted series shown in Figure 1.
While the experimental single-month estimates should not be considered accurate estimates of vacancies in the reported months, they do indicate estimated vacancies at the end of 2020 were impacted by second national lockdowns and further restrictions, with a fall of around 10% from October to December.
Accommodation and food services has been impacted by the further lockdowns and restrictions across the UK at the end of 2020; it had the largest quarterly decrease across all sectors of 8.5% when indexed to October to December 2019 levels. Estimated vacancies are 68.9% lower than a year ago. The small quarterly decrease in administrative and support service activities was partly driven by recruitment drives at the end of the summer increasing the number of vacancies in the previous quarter.
Whilst wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles had a quarterly increase in estimated vacancies in October to December 2020 it is still one of the sectors that has been impacted the most by the pandemic, with estimated vacancies 45.7% lower than a year ago. Within that sector, retail has been particularly impacted by the pandemic, with vacancies 48.3% less than a year ago.
Real estate has seen the largest increase in vacancies across all sectors between July to September 2020 and October to December 2020, when indexed to October to December 2019 levels, due to the stamp duty relief and built up demand during the first lockdown. Professional, scientific and technical activities has also seen a large increase in vacancies in the latest quarter, driven by an increase in consultancy and accountants in the build up to the end of the financial year.
The sectors with an estimated annual increase in vacancies are public administration and defence; compulsory social security and construction. The increase in public administration and defence; compulsory social security is being driven by temporary recruitment for the 2021 Census. Construction was one of the sectors to see a large quarterly fall in vacancies at the start of the pandemic in April to June 2020, with a consistent recovery since the summer.
We publish a weekly Adzuna Online job advert estimates dataset as part of the Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy release. The online job advert estimates show a decline of around 60% in total vacancies from early March to early May generally followed by an increase in vacancies through to the start of December, followed by decreases at the end of December 2020 and start of January 2021. The online job advert estimates for the first week in December are 26.3% lower than a year ago, very similar to 27.1% lower than a year ago in our Vacancy Survey, however the Vacancy Survey had shown stronger growth up to October followed by decreases in November and December.
In our Vacancy Survey estimates, the recovery for smaller businesses has been stronger than for larger businesses. Any vacancies that are not advertised online would not be included in the online job advert estimates; if small businesses are advertising vacancies through alternative methods this could explain the difference in the slower continued growth in online job advert estimates to the faster growth in the Vacancy Survey to October. A delay in removing the online job adverts after filling vacancies could also explain the lag in the decrease in online job advert estimates compared with the Vacancy Survey.
The latest weekly online job adverts publish vacancies with a lag of six days and include regional estimates of vacancies.
For October to December 2020, it is estimated that:
the vacancies per 100 employee jobs ratio is 1.9, although it is still 0.7 lower than a year ago
the sector with the lowest vacancies per 100 employee jobs ratio of 1.1 is accommodation and food service activities, which has been impacted by further lockdowns and restrictions at the end of 2020
construction and public administration and defence; compulsory social security are the only sectors the vacancies per 100 employee jobs ratio have increased on the year, both by 0.1
human health and social work activities remains the largest sector in terms of both vacancy level (128,000) and ratio (3.1) and accounts for 22.2% of all vacancies
most sectors show negative annual movements; the two sectors contributing the most to the 224,000 decrease in all vacancies are wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (down 59,000) and accommodation and food service activities (down 59,000)
Workforce jobs estimates are a combination of estimates of employee jobs mainly sourced from employer surveys, self-employment jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), HM Forces personnel and government- supported trainees.
The majority of the latest employee jobs data were sought on a specified count date, 11 September 2020. The March 2020 data were from 13 March 2020 before the start of coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing measures. Latest self-employment estimates from the Labour Force Survey are based on interviews from the start of August to the end of October 2020. The March 2020 data were based on interviews from the start of February to the end of April 2020, so only around half of these relate to the period prior to the start of social distancing, while interviews in the final week of March and the whole of April relate to the lockdown period.
Employment status on the LFS is self-reported, with people classifying themselves as being either an employee or self-employed. Labour market flows estimates show that the recent decreases in the number of self-employed people have been driven, in part, by a movement of people from self-employed to employee status. Between April to June 2020 and July to September 2020, the number of people who changed from reporting themselves as self- employed to an employee was 277,000, the highest level since records began in 2005. Of these, the number who had changed jobs had not increased from normal levels. Consequently, some of the fall in self-employment comes from an increase in the number of people who have changed to classifying themselves as an employee, even though they have not changed jobs. There is evidence that this has continued between May to July 2020 and August to October 2020
On 13 October 2020, data from our Labour Force Survey (LFS) was reweighted, as detailed in an article. The Workforce Jobs (WFJ) estimates include some data from the LFS. WFJ estimates have been revised to incorporate this reweighting as well as other revisions. More information can be found in the revisions article.
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 had been generally increasing since 2013, but fell by 475,000 to an estimated 34.68 million jobs in the UK in September 2020; this was the largest quarterly fall since records began in June 1959
the 475,000 decline in jobs comprises a fall of 378,000 in employee jobs, a fall of 97,000 in self- employment jobs, a rise of 1,000 in HM Forces personnel and a fall of 1,000 in government-supported trainees
sectors have not been equally impacted during the coronavirus pandemic; most sectors have seen falls in the number of jobs from June to September 2020, however, some of the sectors have seen a rise in estimated jobs
the estimated number of jobs in wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, the largest sector, fell by 110,000 from June to September 2020; driven by a fall in jobs in retail
arts, entertainment and recreation is one of the worst affected sectors by the pandemic with 9.7% fewer jobs in September 2020 compared with March 2020, with falls in June 2020 and September 2020
public administration and defence; compulsory social security is the only sector to see an increase in jobs in both June 2020 and September 2020, with an estimated quarterly increase of 3,000 jobs in September 2020.
Arts, entertainment and recreation is one of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic with 9.7% fewer jobs in September 2020 compared with March 2020, with falls in June 2020 and September 2020.
Administrative and support service activities and accommodation and food service activities were also initially impacted by the pandemic, seeing falls of 4.7% and 5% respectively from March 2020 to June 2020, followed by smaller falls from June 2020 to September 2020 This resulted in 6.2% and 5.8% fewer jobs in September 2020 than March 2020.
Manufacturing was one of the sectors to have similar falls in jobs from March 2020 to June 2020 and June 2020 to September 2020, with jobs 3.8% lower in September 2020 than March 2020.
Some sectors, including wholesale and retail; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transport and storage and human health and social work activities had an increase in jobs from March 2020 to June 2020 but were then impacted by the pandemic in September 2020. The fall in wholesale and retail; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles" is driven by a fall in jobs in retail.
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security is the only sector to see an increase in jobs in both June and September, with 1.3% more jobs in September 2020 than March 2020. This was driven by an increase in the public sector employment.
The quarterly movement in professional scientific and technical activities is an increase of 11,000, which is not significant, but it should be noted that the overall movement includes a 36,000 fall in employee jobs and an increase of 46,000 in self-employment jobs.
The quarterly movement in construction is a fall of 104,000, but it should be noted that the overall movement includes a 99,000 fall in self-employment jobs and a fall of 2,000 employee jobs. This fall could be a result of people who have changed to classifying themselves as an employee, even though they have not changed jobs. Similarly, education has fallen by 13,000 jobs, which is caused by a 14,000 decrease in self-employment jobs and an increase of 2,000 employee jobs.Back to table of contents
Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 26 January 2021
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).
Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 15 December 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 15 December 2020
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).
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.Back to table of contents
For more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see the article published on 6 May 2020, which details some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.
An article published 11 December 2020 compares our labour market data sources and discusses some of the main differences.
Our latest data and analysis on the impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy and population are available on our dedicated coronavirus page. This is the hub for all special coronavirus-related publications, drawing on all available data. 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.
Impact on production of vacancy and workforce job estimates
Because of social distancing measures leading to the temporary closure of businesses across the UK, there have been some difficulties in collecting data using the Vacancy Survey and the Short-Term Employment Surveys.
Survey response rates were lower than is typical. To protect the quality of our output, we have used alternative sources where possible to inform data. We have used Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) section-level indications from the Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey (BICS), as well as survey contributor-level comments provided to us over the telephone or electronically, as a guide on whether businesses are operational and likely, or not, to be actively recruiting and to confirm employment figures.
End of EU Exit Transition period
As the UK enters into a new Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, the UK statistical system will continue to produce and publish our wide range of economic and social statistics and analysis. We are committed to continued alignment with the highest international statistical standards, enabling comparability both over time and internationally, and ensuring the general public, statistical users and decision makers have the data they need to be informed.
As the shape of the UK's future statistical relationship with the EU becomes clearer over the coming period, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is making preparations to assume responsibilities that as part of our membership of the EU, and during the transition period, were delegated to the statistical office of the EU, Eurostat. This includes responsibilities relating to international comparability of economic statistics, deciding what international statistical guidance to apply in the UK context and to provide further scrutiny of our statistics and sector classification decisions.
In applying international statistical standards and best practice to UK economic statistics, we will draw on the technical advice of experts in the UK and internationally, and our work will be underpinned by the UK's well- established and robust framework for independent official statistics, set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Further information on our proposals will be made available early this year.
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.
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.
Estimates of vacancies are obtained from the Vacancy Survey, a survey of employers. Adzuna Online job advert estimates are also published as part of the Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy release.
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).
The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level.
The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level, for a typical industrial sector is around plus or minus 6% of that level.
|SIC 2007 Section||United Kingdom|
for Sep 2020
|Sampling variability |
of estimate 1
|A||Agriculture, forestry and fishing||434||±45|
|B||Mining and quarrying||55||±7|
|D||Electricity, gas, steam and |
air conditioning supply
|E||Water supply, sewerage, |
waste and remediation activities
|G||Wholesale and retail trade; |
repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles
|H||Transport and storage||1,768||±44|
|I||Accommodation and |
food service activities
|J||Information and communication||1,465||±53|
|K||Financial and insurance activities||1,135||±31|
|L||Real estate activities||632||±44|
|M||Professional scientific |
and technical activities
|N||Administrative and |
support service activities
|O||Public admin and defence; |
compulsory social security
|Q||Human health and |
social work activities
|R||Arts, entertainment and recreation||947||±49|
|S/T||Other service activities |
and Private Households
Download this table Table 1: Sampling variability for estimates of jobs in the UK, thousands.xls .csv
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.
The vacancy headline estimate is based on a seasonally adjusted, three-month moving average and has National Statistics status. Further information about how single estimates have impacted the three-month estimates is available in the X06 dataset. These experimental estimates are non-seasonally adjusted and should not be considered accurate estimates of vacancies in the reported months because of the high volatility caused by the survey sample design. They can be used to indicate an approximate change in the level of total vacancies.
Approximately 80% of the rotational survey overlaps every three months, therefore a comparison of vacancy estimates for a given month to three months prior can provide a reasonable indication of the change in monthly vacancies.
An annual reconciliation report of job estimates is published every March comparing the latest workforce jobs (WFJ) estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The concept of employment (measured by the LFS as the number of people in work) differs from the concept of jobs, since a person can have more than one job and some jobs may be shared by more than one person. The LFS, which collects information mainly from residents of private households, is the preferred source of statistics on employment. The WFJ series, which is compiled mainly from surveys of businesses, is the preferred source of statistics on jobs by industry, since it provides a more reliable industry breakdown than the LFS.
During the coronavirus pandemic the LFS and WFJ series may have additional difference because a person's perception of their attachment to a job may differ from the business's perception of that job. It is also important to note that LFS is based on interviews throughout the coverage period, whereas WFJ series to relate to a specific date. This difference can be significant in a labour market that is experiencing rapid changes.Back to table of contents
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