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Early signs of recovery in UK jobs market

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After some of the steepest falls in live vacancies since before the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK jobs market appears to be turning a corner.

February saw 866,242 advertised job vacancies, falling just -0.14% compared to January, according to the UK Job Market Report by job search engine Adzuna, driven by increasing monthly job openings in sectors such as Travel (+7.48%) and Maintenance (+6.64%).

This marks the first indication of a steadying jobs market, after several recent months of sharp declines, including a -6.64% fall in vacancies between December and January, and a –6.95% fall between November and December.

Prospective job hunters will be pleased to see one month of improving jobs data, following a sharp drop in available vacancies at the end of 2023. However, vacancies are still down -15.11% compared to the same time last year. This is increasing the competition for available roles, with 1.86 jobseekers per vacancy, the highest this figure has been since August 2021.

At the same time, the average advertised UK salary is now £38,478, up +0.81% monthly since January. This +3.01% annual increase in salaries compared to the same time last year, underlines the challenge companies are having to find highly skilled talent to fill specialist, high-paying positions. Earlier this month, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey told an audience that the UK was ‘at, or near, full employment’.

Salary transparency may also have turned a corner in the UK this month. Over 50% of roles advertised on Adzuna featured a salary in February, (50.7%), compared to 49.3% without one. This is the highest level of salary transparency in the UK since May 2023.

The majority of sectors saw positive job increases month-on-month in February including Graduate (+5.3%) and Property (+5.17%), along with Travel and Maintenance. Whilst some sectors still experienced monthly falls in job postings including Retail (-9.49%), Domestic Help & Cleaning (-7%) and Hospitality & Catering (-5.01%).

The majority of job sectors have seen a decrease in postings on an annual basis but the decline appears to be slowing. Graduate roles have fallen -30.2% annually, whilst for PR, Advertising & Marketing it’s -13.65% and -10.06% for Engineering.

This compares to January when some sectors such as Domestic Help & Cleaning experienced a -44.58% fall in advertised vacancies compared to the same time the year before. Teaching, which remains the largest sector by job postings (116,671), experienced an annual increase in roles by +12.61%.

Retail continued to be the sector with the highest advertised salary increase month on month, up +2.63% in February, with an average of £29,834. This may be a reaction to several retailers raising or pledging to raise wages to retain workers, including M&S, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl.

Salaries for Maintenance jobs rose +2.12%, whilst for Social Work the increase was +1.53%. Jobseekers will also benefit from an increase in the national living wage which comes in on 1 April. Meanwhile, the IT industry saw its first positive salary increase month-on-month of +0.83% to £51,210 since September 2022, which demonstrates good news for the UK’s growing digital and tech sectors.

The sectors that experienced the biggest annual increases in advertised salaries were Energy, Oil & Gas (+16.36%), Travel (+13.45%) and Social Work (+12.55%), whilst IT was the only sector to experience a decrease in advertised salaries annually (-7.41%).

East Midlands remained the top region for the third month running, with average advertised salaries increasing by +6.45% compared to the same time last year, followed closely by Eastern England (+5.59%). London is continuing to rise up the table, following a +1.86% increase in advertised salaries, the second month in a row that London has experienced a positive salary increase.

Northern Ireland has slumped further down the table, with the smallest annual growth in salaries (+0.56%), whilst Scotland has experienced the biggest increase of the devolved nations (+3.27%).

For another month running, Cambridge is the best city for job hunters with 0.33 jobseekers competing for available roles. Guildford came second with 0.45 jobseekers per available role, and Exter followed closely with around 0.56 jobseekers for each role.

Bradford continues to be one of the hardest cities to find a job, with 7.26 job seekers per 2,643 vacancies. This is followed by Rochdale, with 4.77 jobseekers per role and Birmingham with 3.98 jobseekers for every advertised role.

Warehouse work continues to be the top trending job on Adzuna’s Intelligence Portal for the ninth month in a row. This metric tracks demand for a wide range of occupations and designates an Interest Quotient for each role. The higher the quotient, the more in demand those roles are among Adzuna jobseekers.

Healthcare Support work remains in second position for the second month in a row. Meanwhile, Social Care work continues to be the third-most trending job.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said: “The UK jobs market may have become tighter over the past few months following a decline in advertised vacancies but this has only pushed advertised average salaries to the highest levels we’ve ever seen at Adzuna.

“There may not be an abundance of roles at the moment, but companies that continue to hire and grow are prepared to invest in new team members and secure skilled, experienced staff.

“It’s too soon to know yet what the impact of the recent UK budget will have on the jobs market but proposed changes to child benefit and free childcare reform may lead to an influx of people entering the workforce over the next few months which could help reduce shortages in key sectors such as Teaching.”

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