WaveTrackR February 2022 Recruitment Trends Report reveals falling jobs and applications

It had to happen sometime. The extraordinary growth we have seen in jobs over the past 10 months seems to be finally, gradually, abating. WaveTrackR’s February 2022 Recruitment Trends Report has shown that both jobs and applications dropped in February from January’s numbers, with jobs at their lowest levels since July 2021.

Given January’s unexpected meteoric rise in applications, it is perhaps unexpected that applications have dropped, but only by 9%. Jobs fell by 5%, which might not seem like a lot, but as they only rose by 3% in January, a 5% drop the following month places them below December’s figures – a month that is notoriously slow for job activity. 

The fall in jobs has at least contributed to a rise in the average number of applications per job, from 9 to 11, providing some relief to employers and recruiters alike. Applications may be down from January but they are higher than any month in 2021.

So, we have decreasing jobs and applications that remain higher than at any time in 2021. Could the labour shortage be easing? It certainly seems that way. Of course, as always, the average figures don’t necessarily represent what individual industries at either ends of the spectrum are experiencing, which is why we like to dig deeper into industry specifics. 

Manufacturing applications have again risen, making it the industry receiving the most applications in February. It remains amongst the top five industries for jobs too, indicating a position of strength in the market. Thanks to global supply chain pressures easing and a smaller than expected impact from Omicron, British manufacturing output grew at the fastest pace in six months in January. Production volumes rose for the 20th successive month. Rising inflation may impact this in the months to come but for now, Manufacturing is going from strength to strength, leading to the strong jobs activity we are seeing.

Health & Nursing and Public Sector continue to post a high number of jobs but receive relatively low numbers of applications, highlighting the continuing skills gaps in those industries. On the flip side, Engineering & Utilities and Secretarial, PAs & Administration received amongst the highest numbers of applications but without the jobs to support those applications. Given its place amongst the industries receiving the highest percentages of applications, it is perhaps unsurprising to see that Secretarial, PAs & Administration received the joint highest average number of applications per job (alongside Banking). It is encouraging that Transport, Logistics are also receiving high average applications per job following the labour shortages the industry experienced in the latter part of 2021. 

The beleaguered Travel, Leisure, Tourism industry received the lowest average number of applications per job, perhaps a sign that many employees and candidates have since side-stepped into another industry. Social Services and Health & Nursing – both industries with historic skills shortages that have intensified over the pandemic – are also suffering from low average applications per job.

Niche job boards continue to receive a higher number of applications per job on average, though that number has dropped for many. Secs in the City’s average number of applications per job, whilst higher than that overall average, has more than halved from January. Caterer.com also received a high number compared to the average but experienced a drop from last month. JobServe, meanwhile, has increased its share and its application numbers have risen from January. Many of the biggest generic job boards achieved similar numbers of average applications, although there has been a reshuffle amongst those receiving the highest from January.

February seems to mark a beginning of the return to slightly calmer jobs and applications figures. Both are dipping but not free-falling. However, the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly cause supply chain issues and rising costs that could lead to employers stalling hiring drives. As we have seen over the past two years, uncertainty often prompts businesses to press pause and wait things out. Right now, it’s impossible to know what will happen but we will be keeping a beady eye on those jobs and applications figures over the next month.

Read more on our February 2022 report

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