WaveTrackR data records strong start to 2021

It hasn’t been the easiest start to the year we were all led to believe would be better than 2020. A sharp rise in cases led to a third lockdown being imposed on January 6th, schools shutting and swathes of businesses forced to close their doors again to meet restrictions. However, this doesn’t seem to have crushed business confidence. 

WaveTrackR’s January data report has revealed that the jobs market has experienced a surge of activity, hitting the ground running as we forge ahead into 2021. Jobs are 99% higher than the average for 2020 and 4% higher than December’s average. Applications, too, are up: 82% higher than the 2020 average and 23% higher than the average for December. It’s a strong start to the year and a good indicator of business confidence.

Graph with job posting and applications by month for January 2021
Job posting and applications by month – January 2021 | © WaveTrackR

The last week of December/first week of January recorded a low figure of 45% under the 2020 average which is hardly surprising given the first three days of January were a public holiday and a weekend. What is remarkable is the huge spike in jobs in the week beginning January 4th from -45% to +125%. Although England’s third lockdown didn’t legally come into force until the 6th, it was announced on the 4th, so the fact that a relatively large number of jobs were posted in that week is incredibly positive. 

Job posts halved in the following week but rose week on week, ending the month just 12% short of the second-week peak of 125% above the 2020 average. Applications were steady across January, experiencing relatively small peaks and troughs and ending the month at a strong 77% above the 2020 average.

The WaveTrackR report also found that, at 21% and for the second consecutive month, the industry posting the highest percentage of jobs is Public Sector. The top 5 remains unchanged from December but with IT & Internet posting slightly more and Education slightly less. Four out of the five industries that posted the highest percentage of jobs in January also received the highest number of applications. Property, however, posted a relatively high percentage of jobs but didn’t make it into the chart for highest applications received, indicates a possible skills shortage. On the flip side, Finance received the fourth-highest percentage of applications but without the jobs to match candidate demand.  

Data looking at the average application per job by industry provides sharper insight into the industries with huge candidate competition and those which are struggling to receive applications. At an average of 98 applications for each job advertised, Recruitment Sales tops the chart. Jobs are receiving a massive 83 applications more than the average across all industries, indicating a low job/ high candidate arena. The other industries experiencing a relatively high number of applications per job have also suffered due to the pandemic.

Table with highest and lowest industries for average application per job, in January 2021
Average applications per job by industry – January 2021 | © WaveTrackR

Finance (84 applications per job) has been hit over the past year, with the FTSE 100 suffering the worst year since the previous financial crisis. Many businesses are looking to shed expenses where possible and Management Consultants (74 applications per job)  may be a casualty of that. The Travel, Leisure & Tourism industry (42 applications per job) has been one of the most severely affected by the pandemic and continues to suffer greatly. Finally, the huge number of Engineering (30 applications per job) contractors being let go coupled with projects having been shelved or postponed has resulted in a huge number in the Engineering sector to find themselves unemployed.    

Looking at the industries receiving low numbers of applications, many are currently experiencing skills shortages. Electronics and Science only received an average of three and four applications per job respectively. Others, including Social Services and Health & Nursing, are severely stretched due to the pandemic. Accountancy, too, is low on applications. More talent is needed in each of these sectors.

Clearly, certain industries are performing better than others. Some are candidate-short, others don’t have enough jobs for the huge numbers of candidates. However, on average the job market is stable and indicates a confidence that wasn’t there in the first lockdown. The main differential? The success of the vaccination programme to date and an end in sight. This has encouraged businesses to keep hiring, to continue to build back, to hope for better to come. Hope can be an incredibly powerful force.  

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