Jobs vacancies across the UK have fallen to their lowest levels for more than three years, with pandemic-related roles supporting the market given demand for care workers during the crisis.
Health, with social and civil services, accounted for about a third of all jobs posted across recruitment websites in May, according to data from JobisJob, whose data covers 85 per cent of jobs posted online across 250 job boards. But overall vacancies were sharply down as companies closed their doors in the midst of the crisis.
The number of jobs posted in the first five months of 2020 was 40 per cent lower than the same time last year, although the period includes January and February, before the economic cost of the pandemic started to hit. In May, the number of advertised jobs was two thirds lower.
The retail sector was the worst hit, with jobs down 53 per cent between January to May compared with the same time last year, as stores were forced to close during lockdown.
Many of the positions being sought by employers are either related to treating or caring for patients and others needing help during the crisis, or in sectors that have been resilient throughout the pandemic, such as education, science and research, and telecoms.
The fall in new jobs comes as policymakers warn about the threat of widespread unemployment when the government’s furlough scheme begins to wind down from August. Redundancy proceedings will need to start this month among companies planning to cut large numbers of staff. Almost 9m workers have now been placed on furlough, and are unable to work.
“A tsunami of job losses is a real possibility,” said James Reed, chairman of recruitment firm Reed and co-founder of Keep Britain Working, a campaign to reskill workers whose jobs are at risk. The JobisJob data tallies with a similar drop in job advertisements at Reed.
“At this moment a ‘day of reckoning’ for jobs when furlough comes to an end is a danger,” warned Mr Reed. “When this happens the country will be highly vulnerable to unemployment rising to five million people or 15 per cent of the workforce. These would be levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s — a harrowing thought.”
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Seven of the top 10 roles being advertised in the past three months were for healthcare positions, particularly in less skilled assistant positions.
Cleaning staff also entered the top ten, as more workplaces looked at how to reopen for business, while there was also strong demand for warehouse operatives given the rush to fulfil online orders for people stuck at home during the lockdown.
The jobs data for May shows signs that the UK economy has begun to emerge from a hibernation enforced by the spread of the virus, with job numbers in construction, real estate, logistics and manufacturing starting to improve.