December Job Market Review

logistics work looking at digital screen december job market review’s monthly Job Market Review gives recruiters and businesses fresh insights into what happened in the jobs market in the last month – including candidate insights and regional and sector labour market performance.

December 2021 Snapshot

  • Vacancies and applications were down across all sectors as seasonally expected
  • Transport & Logistics most significantly down with market demands not met
  • Hospitality sector applications up over a quarter YOY, despite Omicron

Vacancies are down with significance in Transport & Logistics and Health & Social Care

Seasonal factors naturally affect the figures in December, following a usually bumpy couple of months in the festive lead up to the holiday break – and so it is of no great surprise to see numbers down across all sectors in vacancies and applications.

Consistently showing higher job postings over the last few months, Transport & Logistics and Health & Social Care have faced challenges, particularly coming into the final months of the year. In Transport & Logistics, vacancies in December dropped by close to 30,000. However, the pressure for deliveries over the festive period and the threat of cancelled Christmas’ didn’t quite match the media buzz reported in the lead up (1).

The other sector to highlight is Health & Social Care which was still posting generous numbers in December, despite the decrease overall – down by 14% from November. The sector, which has consistently had higher numbers over the last 18 months, has faced particularly challenging times due to the pandemic and the conditions presented in the sector as a result. A recent government report confirmed this, finding that over the last six months, the adult social care sector had four key challenges – recruiting, retaining staff, maintaining staff morale, and accessing agency staff (2).

Following these trends, all other sector vacancy numbers were down across the board as businesses winded down for Christmas. With no other sharp spikes in data, the remaining sectors aligned with the number patterns shown in November, for example – Engineering (-32%), IT (-28%), Financial Services (-36%) and Marketing & Media (-28%).

Regular service resumed for candidate registrations

After the second week of November saw an irregular burst of activity in candidate registrations, with sign-ups for that period up 32% from the previous month, the figures show normalcy resumed from the first week of December. In addition, 50% of December registrations made themselves active and CV searchable, which showed a slight increase across the month.

Candidates are looking ahead, despite the application downturn 

With applications down by 22% in December compared to November, data suggests that while seasonally slower, the market was very much looking ahead to 2022 for their job search.

Hospitality applications were down from November as Christmas got into full swing – but could also have been subject to the added extra of wariness in response to the effects of Omicron on footfall, cancellations, and subsequent cash flow. The figures are significantly better than the same time last year for the sector (+31%) however, benefitting from fewer restrictions and signalling potential growth for Hospitality.

But, what is happening in Financial Services?

In stark contrast to Hospitality’s figures, Financial Services saw a stark decrease in applications, -26% from November and a significant -41% YOY. When we look at the market as a whole, there has undoubtedly been media attention around a shift in financial services careers and changing attitudes. As far back as August 2020, research showed that as many as 44% of Financial Services workers (surveyed) were considering a career change in light of the pandemic due to long hours, commuting, and work-life balance (3). Fast forward a year and the market is still very much in the candidates’ hands, with a report that found that an average of 32% of UK firms were suffering shortages in financial and professional services skills in the last quarter of 2022 (4). And’s December application figures seem to back this – with professional or white-collar sectors taking the biggest hits with Administration (-20%), IT (-25%), Sales (-24%), Marketing & Media (-23%), HR (-22%) and Legal (-23%) posting similar decreases in interest, with figures across all sectors showing a -22% drop in applications.

The good news, however, is salaries stayed relatively stable for another month, and enjoyed an overall MOM increase of 2%, with salaries at £0-£25k (-1%), £25-50k (1%) £50-70k (1%), and £75k+ (-1%). Salaries in the £0-25k bracket are up by 3% YOY, which is a very positive shift in the market and one that will hopefully continue as we move into 2022.  

Looking ahead: New year, new starts, and a new set of challenges?

After surviving the winter with no further restrictions, the market should feel much more positive than the last couple of years. As November showed, candidates and employers were certainly preparing for the year ahead with vacancies and applications alike, dipping in December as expected for the majority (aside from Financial Services as mentioned earlier). With Massive Monday (5) on the first working Monday of 2022, historically the day when record numbers of jobseekers register and apply for new vacancies, it will be interesting to see how candidate behaviour changes coming into the new year.

With Christmas over, the focus for sectors such as Transport & Logistics and Health & Social Care, in particular, will be the fall out from Brexit and immigration issues with foreign workers absences leaving a significant gap in their talent pools. That said, reports as late as the 24th December 2021 showed that rules were shifting to accommodate migrant workers in the UK agricultural sector to meet demands (6), so it would seem the pressures felt are being noticed – but will the candidates come? How Brexit and migrant working is managed from the top will determine how companies and recruiters can fill the skills shortages with appropriate candidates.

As continues to be the case, candidate attraction activities will be the key to reaching the best candidates and filling the skills gaps across all sectors. Employers should prepare for higher candidate expectations and be more transparent (7). And, upskilling and providing training will be a significant part of the process (8). Companies should be open-minded and not always expect the finished article in a candidate but look at potential and soft skills too.