Job Market Review: March 2023’s monthly Job Market Review gives recruiters and businesses fresh insights into what happened in the jobs market last month – including candidate insights and regional and sector labour market performance.

March 2023 snapshot

  • 223,193 jobs were posted on in March, up by 3% compared to February. Applications were also up by 7% month-on-month (MoM)
  • The number of jobs posted in Education increased 26% MoM and 19% year-on-year (YoY)
  • Applications in IT, Marketing & Media, and HR were up by 15%, 11% and 11%, respectively, compared to February
  • Applications were up for all sectors compared to March 2022 (32%)

Have we swerved a recession?

Jeremy Hunt thinks so. He paints a far more positive picture for the economy as we emerge from an economically challenging winter in his mid-March budget. Talk of increased support to help with the cost of living and an energy price cap extension are just some of the ways the Chancellor is making moves towards a brighter year ahead. 

And the jobs market seems to have responded accordingly – with a 3% increase in jobs posted in March, up from February following a MoM dip of -2%. This increase shows a more confident market – and indicates that businesses aren’t afraid to grow and believe they have the means to do so. 

So these businesses and many others will be more than pleased to hear that halving the current eye-watering rate of inflation, reducing debt, and growing the economy are actually forecasted and likely to happen. 

Childcare versus the jobs market

With a push to increase the UK workforce and tackle candidate shortages blighting so many industries for the last three years, the Chancellor’s ‘Back to Work Budget’ focuses on what the Office for National Statistics (ONS) define as ‘economically inactive’. 

A substantial and diverse group within the jobs market, the economically inactive are “people who are not in work, and have not been seeking or not been available for work”, and topically includes those with family caring responsibilities. With over 75% of the employed UK market made up of working parents, it’s a considerable chunk to lose talent from too. And this is where the issue of childcare comes in and the costs involved. 

A topic that undeniably warrants its own stage, the cost of childcare is a long-standing issue contested in all aspects of employment and industry types and even brought to parliament by advocates for change. Managing the disparity in childcare costs and salaries will help people to come back to work, manage the rising living costs, and equally stop talent from leaving the market.

The budget statement delivered a promise of 30 free hours of childcare for one and two-year-olds – the current age is three – and various other measures and packages of support for recipients and suppliers alike to try and create flexibility and, crucially, affordability without compromising on care. 

Learning and development can plug the salary void

We can’t talk about growth without discussing training, development, and apprenticeships – a hot topic throughout March. While it would be easy to assume businesses haven’t wanted to hire and spend in the current climate, there seem to be other factors at play – especially where apprenticeships are concerned. 

The government Apprenticeship Levy is a scheme that businesses over the threshold pay into creating a spending pot for apprenticeships. While the programme has seen success and many companies are open to taking on apprentices this way, industry bodies such as the British Retail Consortium, UKHospitality, TechUK, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation are calling on ministers to reform the scheme overall

With millions of pounds being put aside, the issue lies with the red tape and protocol of how it can be spent, which some businesses say is leading to massive funds going to waste from sitting idle. 

As inflation continues (for now) to outweigh pay in a rather sizeable fashion, employees and job seekers are looking to Learning and Development (L&D) for greater enrichment, progress, opportunities, and more – and L&D professionals are primed to deliver.

We’ve long talked about how culture and benefits hold their weight against salaries when deciding to change jobs or enter the market, and those discussions are hotter than ever. Our latest research shows that over one in five (22%) jobseekers consider a company’s training and development path as one of the most important factors when deciding whether to accept a job offer. This shows that the desire for learning focussed businesses that invest in their employees to upskill and grow is more vigorous than ever before. 

Companies will do well to listen to what new and existing employees want from their L&D offering. Investing in L&D programmes will be more than a short-term solution to bridge the skills gap, helping future-proof a workforce in economic uncertainty by developing and retaining top talent.

The ups and downs of the IT industry 

The IT sector is having a moment, but not necessarily a coherent one. On the one hand, there’s investment aplenty, and on the other – lay-offs, hiring freezes and a case of the jitters around job security and AI. So, what’s going on? data shows consistency in the number of jobs posted MoM – but a significant drop of over a quarter YoY at -26%. In contrast, applications are up 15% MoM and a whopping 80% YoY. So, could the market finally be turning away from the candidate’s favour? Maybe – but not necessarily in the traditional sense we have seen before. It could shape up to become something of a grey area, with no one side holding the cards.

Big brands and corporations in IT are unfortunately making redundancies across their businesses; Amazon, Meta, Google and Microsoft – all household names we seemingly can’t live without are cutting back in a big way. So, whose market is it if they – and others – have fewer carrots to dangle, and candidates can’t take their pick anymore?

Flip the script, and Jeremy Hunt’s budget statement announced an investment of £2.5million into quantum computing. The funding will herald a 10-year programme of training schemes for scientists, engineers and technicians and to develop UK businesses in quantum technology. A new annual £1m prize pot for outstanding and groundbreaking AI research, dubbed the ‘Manchester Prize’, was also announced, shining a light on a sector of technology that generated £10bn in revenue last year. The 50,000+ employees working in over 3,000 UK AI companies will undoubtedly have their eyes on the prize for the next big AI thing. 

Bringing us on to ChatGPT – the artificial-intelligence chatbot tool that has caused a flurry and, in some cases, fury online.

Has it come for copywriters and content specialists jobs everywhere? It is a very intelligent and interesting tool with the scope to do great things. And while the creators, OpenAI, have looked into what jobs could be affected by AI and the weight that holds, businesses and professionals will more likely look at how the technology can aid them in their tasks and promote growth over a complete AI takeover

Education – passion and pressure

Teaching is a passion for most in the industry, and our data shows it’s still a desired sector for many, with applications up 8% MoM and an impressive 55% YoY. This, in response to increases in jobs posted in March, up 26% MoM and 19% YoY, and seasonal changes, shows a more positive picture emerging than the one that’s been played out in the media in the last couple of months. 

However, strike action for better pay and conditions has significantly affected the sector, highlighting the increasing pressures and decreasing resources educators face to the public and talent looking to enter the workforce. With no deals agreed upon as yet, this will be an ongoing hot topic for the next few months to see if the government and the sector can come to an agreement. 

Recognition is being made in significant pockets of the sector, namely SEND (Special Education Needs and Disability). With drastically increasing numbers of SEND diagnoses being made in the last year and counting, the number of children requiring additional specialist support makes up over 16.5% of children in education, increasing consistently in the previous five years. In response, the government has pledged to create thousands more specialist school places for SEND children across England

And in turn, the increase in specialist places and the growing need for more SEND experience within the sector creates opportunities for newly qualified teachers or teachers looking to progress or niche into special education. As for so many in the jobs markets across industries today, modernising and diversifying will play a significant role in the success of the sector – online learning, homeschooling, private education, and more specific qualifications are factors making waves across Education with employers and employees. Both of whom would do well to keep a keen eye on where the industry is heading over the next few months. 

Marketing & Media increase across the board despite government campaign

Applications to Marketing & Media roles saw a lift of 11% MoM and 32% YoY in what was a positive month for the sector. Jobs posted were up a more than healthy 44% MoM. Marketeers across the country will welcome these statistics given that just last summer the government advised businesses to cut marketing spend in order to lower their prices for consumers. While the campaign was a little over six months ago now, it’s good to see that it has done little to dampen employment in the sector. 

Digital marketing is, of course, not going anywhere and will continue to grow and thrive for as long as technology will and customers want to buy. And that’s just one area of a multi-faceted and nuanced industry that has perfected the art of syncing progress with evolving times, and the workforce is confident and happy to go along for the ride. 

Looking ahead…

More strikes are in the works for the Education sector and more public services are likely to follow suit. With demands not being met and a general feeling of discontent across the public sector, it looks like there are more repercussions for the government to come.

The Spring budget will kick off in April, and with it taking a keen focus on tackling the UK’s productivity issues and providing the necessary support to encourage the economically inactive back into work, many will be waiting with baited breath for the promises to come into fruition. The policies are key to the success of the UK jobs market and will be instrumental in reducing the inflation rate – a consequence that will be welcomed by employers and employees alike.