Jobs and applications dip but applications remain high: Wave February 2023 Recruitment Trends Report

Following a January boom in applications as well as a rise in jobs, February saw a dip in both jobs (-8%) and applications (-9%). The Wave February 2023 Recruitment Trends Report has shown slight decreases in both areas, although applications remain high – only January 2023 has produced more applications across the past year. While not the lowest they’ve been all year, jobs are definitely showing a downwards trajectory.

A general rise in applications year on year

Applications may have decreased by 9% from January but they were 20% over the 2022 monthly average – lower only than January 2023 (a bumper month for applications) across the entirety of the past year. Increasing applications seems to be a trend born from record numbers of people moving out of economic inactivity and into the job market. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, this has been driven by those in the 50-64 year age bracket and, increasingly in recent months, in the 16-24 year age bracket, who are joining or rejoining the job market. In other words, there’s been an influx of candidates entering the market and applying for jobs who weren’t looking for jobs previously.

Jobs continue to trend downwards

Although jobs showed a rise month on month in January, that was compared to a low activity month in December. In reality, jobs were only 5% over the 2022 monthly average – lower than any month in the first half of 2022 bar April. In February 2023, jobs were 3% under the 2022 monthly average. It’s not the lowest they have been over the past few months but far lower than they were in February 2022. It is further proof that jobs are continuing to slow down, likely due to ongoing economic pressures as businesses lace their hiring plans with caution.

Manufacturing receives highest percentage of applications of all industries

Manufacturing just pipped IT & Internet to the post when it comes to application percentages. Manufacturing received 15% of all applications to IT & Internet’s 14% share, which takes the industry from third highest for applications in January to the top spot in February. These high application numbers meant that it received an average of 22 applications per job – 6 over the general average of 16. It remains in the top five highest for jobs, too, indicating a good balance of available candidates to jobs.

IT & Internet remains strong for both jobs and applications

Manufacturing may have knocked IT & Internet off the top spot for applications but the industry was just one percentage point behind and it remained in first place for jobs posted, a spot it has dominated for well over a year. The Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 revealed that the industry posted the highest percentage of jobs and received the highest percentage of applications of all industries across the entirety of 2022. In an increasingly digital world, in a year in which AI was a huge talking point, and at a time when businesses across the globe are investing in departments whose sole role is to implement digitalisation processes, IT & Internet is continuing to boom.

Retail and Hospitality experience high application per job numbers

Retail & Wholesale and Catering & Hospitality – 2 industries that have previously struggled with labour shortages – received the highest average number of applications per job, at 30 apiece. Given the very public struggles both industries have faced since the pandemic, particularly Catering & Hospitality, this boost to application numbers is a positive sign.

Health & Nursing continues to face huge skills shortage

Health & Nursing has consistently appeared in the top five for jobs but bottom five for average applications per job since the monthly Wave recruitment trends reports began. February 2023 is no exception. The industry is second only to IT & Internet for jobs and it received an average of just 3 applications per job – 13 under the general average. The Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 showed Health & Nursing as being in the top five for jobs in 2022 and yet it received only 1.82% of all applications.

Post your jobs at the beginning of the week

Monday was the most active day for candidates to apply for jobs, with Monday also the most active day for recruiters to post jobs. Monday aligns perfectly with application activity but the data shows that a close second for job posting was a Friday. However, when Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the least active days for candidates, this could mean you miss out on applications.Our time to apply data, collected across 2022 in the Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023, showed that 50% of all applications are made within 48 hours of a job being posted. If you post a job on a Friday and the majority of candidates are actively searching for jobs on a Monday, that’s a huge number of candidates who might not even see your job.

Beginning and mid-month most active dates

In terms of the most active date in February to post jobs, that was mid-month, on 15th February. The highest number of applications, meanwhile, were received on the first day of the month, 1st February.

Niche job boards continue to provide strong application numbers

It’s another strong month for niche jobs boards. Caterer leads the board for average application per job numbers for the second consecutive month, with 26 to Secs in the City’s 23. JobServe is third highest, with 18 – 1 higher than Totaljobs, which tops the generic job board table yet again. Reed and CV Library follow with an average of 8 applications per job each.

February’s data appears to be strengthening the trend for higher applications and lower jobs – a reverse of what we were seeing a year ago. With cost of living likely to be relatively high for the majority of 2023, despite a gradually falling inflation rate, this trend is probably not going to alter course any time soon.

Read more on our February 2023 report

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