FE News | UK job postings fall below pre-pandemic levels

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  • January job postings on Indeed only increased by 0.2% in 2024, much less than the pre-pandemic jump of 11.3% in 2020, and below the 3.4% rise in 2023
  • That leaves job postings down 5% on their 1 February 2020, pre-pandemic baseline
  • Despite RTO mandates, hybrid and remote job postings hold up

UK job postings have fallen below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from global hiring and matching platform Indeed. 

Job posting levels typically experience a January jump as hiring demand rebounds from the traditional year-end slowdown. But this year, they barely increased, rising by a meagre 0.2%. That’s significantly less than the 2020 rise of 11.3%, and below the 3.4% increase in 2023. It’s the weakest rise in January job postings in six years and leaves postings at around their lowest since May 2021 when the economy was recovering from Covid lockdowns. The majority of sectors have experienced a slowdown in hiring demand as the post-pandemic hiring boom fades into the rearview mirror. 

The sluggish start to the year points to a cautious approach from employers, with the economy expected to face headwinds in 2024. The UK stands out internationally, with job postings still comfortably above pre-pandemic levels in major European and North American economies (Figure 1). 

Jobseeker searches have picked up but hiring is still challenging in some sectors 

Meanwhile, jobseeker searches have picked up as normal after the holidays and are pacing in line with January trends observed in recent years. But hiring isn’t necessarily easy and in some sectors, jobseeker interest remains substantially lower than before the pandemic. Jobseeker clicks on social science roles are down 33% on average versus pre-pandemic, community & social service down 31% and cleaning & sanitation down 30%, relative to the average job on Indeed. Interest in childcare jobs has decreased by 27% since February 2020, underlining the skills shortage that’s triggered the government’s new childcare recruitment campaign.

However, some occupations have received a substantial increase in jobseeker interest, such as software development roles, for which clicks are up 252% on average since February 2020. Clicks on information design & development jobs have increased 168% in this period, while mathematics (153%), legal (77%) and marketing (62%) roles are also receiving interest that outstrips available positions.

Hybrid and remote roles hold up

Despite much focus on return-to-office in 2023, the share of job postings on Indeed mentioning remote or hybrid flexibility held up. As of the end of December, 15.8% of UK job postings on Indeed mentioned the potential for remote or hybrid work, largely in line with the May 2023 peak of 16.3%. The share of searches containing remote or hybrid terms was 2.7% at year-end, near its all-time high of 3.0% and up tenfold from pre-pandemic levels.

London yet to recover from pandemic 

Meanwhile, the London jobs market is languishing well below its pre-pandemic level, with job postings pacing 19% lower than in February 2020, compared to the UK average which is just 5% lower. The persistence of hybrid working and slowing in many professional services sectors continue to be factors weighing on hiring demand in the capital. 

Jack Kennedy, Senior Economist at Indeed UK said:

“The UK labour market hasn’t received its usual January injection of job postings, signalling a softening in hiring demand following the post-pandemic boom. The question in 2024 is whether the job market stabilises or retreats further. The Bank of England is hoping the continued fall in vacancies will mean wage growth easing from its current elevated levels, paving the way for interest rate cuts later this year. But with unemployment still low and continuing challenges around workforce participation, it remains a somewhat tight labour market. From an employers’ perspective, hiring challenges have eased but haven’t completely disappeared, with many industries needing to fill roles but not always receiving sufficient jobseeker interest. Remaining competitive on pay, benefits and flexibility continues to be important to attracting and retaining talent.”

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