Vacancies and jobs in the UK: October 2020

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

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13 October 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 the coronavirus. More details about the impact on labour market outputs can be found in our statement.

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Contact:
Email Laura Caldwell

Release date:
13 October 2020

Next release:
10 November 2020

2. Main points

  • After a record low of 343,000 vacancies in April to June 2020 there has been an estimated record quarterly increase of 144,000 to 488,000 vacancies in July to September 2020; vacancies remain below the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels and are 332,000 (40.5%) less than a year ago.

  • The quarterly growth in vacancies is being driven by businesses with fewer than 50 employees, with an estimated increase of 55,000 vacancies for businesses with one to nine employees and 43,000 for businesses with 10 to 49 employees.

  • Larger businesses with more than 2,500 employees had an estimated quarterly increase of 4,000 vacancies, however this is 137,000 (47.1%) fewer vacancies than a year ago; smaller businesses with one to nine employees have seen a stronger recovery with only 20,000 (16.6%) fewer vacancies than a year ago.

  • The "arts, entertainment and recreation" sector has struggled the most during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with estimated vacancies 78.2% lower in the latest quarter compared with January to March 2020; this was mainly driven by a large quarterly fall of 90.7% in vacancies from January to March 2020 to April to June 2020 and a small recovery in July to September 2020.

  • Whilst "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 (71.7%), it has recovered well in the latest quarter, with estimated vacancies 18.2% lower than January to March 2020.

  • In July to September 2020, the "public admin and defence; compulsory social security" sector is closest to its vacancy levels in January to March 2020, with an estimated 11.4% fewer vacancies; this is mainly as a result of the sector seeing one of the lowest falls (26.8%) in vacancies between January to March 2020 and April to June 2020.

  • The estimated number of jobs had been generally increasing since 2013, but fell by 354,000 to 35.41 million jobs in the UK from March to June 2020; this was the largest fall since September 1992.

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Because of social distancing measures leading to the temporary closure of businesses across the UK, there have been some difficulties in collecting data and producing estimates. More information can be found in Measuring the data.

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3. Vacancies for July to September 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, July to September 2020, are 3 July, 7 August and 4 September 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.

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 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.

For July to September 2020, there were an estimated 488,000 vacancies, which is a record quarterly increase of 144,000 vacancies from the record low in April to June 2020. The increase is driven by small businesses (49 or fewer employees). Despite the record quarterly increase, vacancies remain below the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels and are 332,000 (40.5%) 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 an increase of approximately 50% in the estimated vacancies for September 2020 compared with June 2020. However, estimated vacancies for September 2020 are still around 30% less than in March 2020.

The “arts, entertainment and recreation” sector has struggled the most during the pandemic, with estimated vacancies 78.2% lower in the latest quarter compared to January to March 2020. This was mainly driven by a large quarterly fall of 90.7% in vacancies from January to March 2020 to April to June 2020 and a small recovery in July to September 2020. “Accommodation and food services” also saw a large fall of 90.4% between January to March 2020 to April to June 2020, however it has seen a stronger recovery in the latest quarter than “arts, entertainment and recreation” and estimated vacancies are 61.9% lower than January to March 2020.

Sectors showing the largest increases in vacancies between April to June 2020 and July to September 2020, when indexed to January to March 2020 levels, are “construction” and “transport and storage”. These sectors saw large quarterly falls in vacancies at the start of the pandemic in April to June 2020 (71.7% and 70.7% respectively). Construction in particular has recovered well with estimated vacancies in the latest quarter 18.2% lower than January to March 2020.

In July to September 2020, the "public admin and defence; compulsory social security” sector is closest to its vacancy levels in January to March 2020, with an estimated 11.4% fewer vacancies. This is mainly as a result of the sector seeing one of the lowest falls (26.8%) in vacancies between January to March 2020 and April to June 2020. “Human health and social work activities” is another sector that is close to its vacancy levels in January to March 2020, with an estimated 16.5% fewer vacancies. The sector experienced the lowest fall in vacancies from January to March 2020 to April to June 2020 (24.5%).

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 September. There was a small decrease in the online job advert estimates at the start of September, which may be due to a seasonal component of the data.

The online job advert estimates for the first week in September compared with the first week in March show a smaller recovery in vacancies compared with our Vacancy Survey. The increase in our Vacancy Survey estimates is driven by smaller 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 between our Vacancy Survey and the online job advert estimates. The latest weekly online job adverts publish vacancies with a lag of six days and include regional estimates of vacancies.

For July to September 2020, it is estimated that:

  • the vacancies per 100 employee jobs ratio has increased from the record low of 1.1 in April to June 2020 to 1.6 in July to September 2020, although it is still 1.1 lower than a year ago

  • the "arts, entertainment and recreation" sector has struggled the most during the coronavirus pandemic and has the lowest vacancies per 100 employee jobs ratio of 0.7

  • all sectors except for "mining and quarrying"" are showing signs of recovery, with quarterly increases; sectors with the largest quarterly increases are "accommodation and food service activities" (24,000), "wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles" (20,000), "construction" (14,000), "education" (14,000) and "transport and storage" (13,000)

  • "human health and social work activities" remains the largest sector in terms of both vacancy level (114,000) and ratio (2.8) and accounts for 23.3% of all vacancies

  • all sectors show negative annual movements; the two sectors contributing the most to the 332,000 decrease in all vacancies are "wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles" (down 73,000) and "accommodation and food service activities" (down 64,000)

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4. Jobs for June 2020 (first published on 15 September 2020)

Workforce jobs estimates are a combination of estimates of employee jobs mainly sourced from employer surveys, self-employment jobs from the Labour Force Survey, HM Forces personnel and government-supported trainees.

The majority of the latest employee jobs data were sought on a specified count date, 12 June 2020; the previous 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 May to the end of July 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.

On 13 October 2020, data from our Labour Force Survey (LFS) were reweighted, per our article. The workforce jobs estimates, which include some data from the LFS, published on 15 September 2020 are based on the previous weighting methodology; more information can be found in the article. Workforce jobs estimates will be revised by 15 December 2020.

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 in the latest quarter fell by 354,000 to 35.41 million jobs in the UK in June 2020; this was the largest fall since September 1992

  • the 354,000 decline in jobs comprises a fall of 227,000 in employee jobs, a fall of 128,000 in self- employment jobs, a rise of 2,000 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 March to June 2020, however, some 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, increased by 51,000 from March to June 2020; the increase is being driven by supermarkets and retailers adapting to the coronavirus pandemic by launching more online and home delivery services

  • "administrative and support service activities" saw the largest fall in the estimated number of jobs between March and June 2020; the sector decreased by 150,000, this was driven by employment agencies because of a lack of customer demand

The sectors showing the largest estimated quarterly increases in jobs are “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” (51,000), “construction” (23,000), “public admin and defence” (18,000) and “human health and social work activities” (16,000).

The rise in estimated jobs in “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” is driven by supermarkets and retailers adapting to the coronavirus pandemic by moving more services online. In these sectors employee jobs are driving the majority of the positive movement in jobs, with positive contribution from self-employment jobs (except “human health and social work activities”, which saw a fall of 2,000 in self- employment jobs).

The sectors showing the largest estimated quarterly falls in jobs are “administrative and support service activities” (150,000), “accommodation and food service activities” (110,000) and “professional, scientific and technical activities” (91,000). In “administrative and support service activities” the fall was driven by employment agencies because of a lack of customer demand. The “accommodation and food service activities” sector has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with some businesses reporting that they have let staff go.

The quarterly movement in “education” is a fall of 5,000, which is not significant, but it should be noted that the overall movement includes a 21,000 fall in employee jobs and an increase of 15,000 in self-employment jobs. Similarly, “real estate activities” has fallen by 5,000 jobs, which is caused by a 12,000 increase in employee jobs and a 16,000 fall in self-employment jobs.

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5. Vacancies and jobs data

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 13 October 2020
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 15 September 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 September 2020
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

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6. Glossary

Vacancies

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).

Jobs

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

Coronavirus

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 coronavirus 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 the coronavirus.

For more information on how labour market data sources, among others, will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the statement published on 27 March 2020. A further article published on 6 May 2020, detailed some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.

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

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.

Sources

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.

Vacancies

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

Jobs

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).

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

Sampling variability

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.

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level, for a typical industrial sector is around plus or minus 6% of that level.

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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.

Vacancies

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.

Jobs

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.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Laura Caldwell
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455955