Despite continuing Covid restrictions and the looming threat of Brexit with either no deal or an unsatisfactory deal, the number of job adverts reached a 2020 high in early December.
According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), this was a major boost for hopes of growth for 2021.
However, the figures also show a slight slowdown in new job posting activity.
The REC’s job recovery tracker, produced with analytics firm Emsi, analysed the days between 23 November and 6 December and found there were 1.40 million active job adverts in the first week of December, the highest weekly total this year.
These were well distributed within the UK with the south-west of England leading the way on 2.6%.
The good news was tempered by results from north-west England where active job adverts fell by -2.7%, however.
Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said the arrival of vaccines and employers desire to create new jobs where possible was a key factor but “we should be under no illusions that jobseekers and businesses will need help from government to adapt to the changed economy”.
He said that meant incentivising job creation through tax policy, working more closely with expert recruiters and more effective skills training, and added that the economic disturbance of a no deal must be avoided if we were to support jobs.
Every UK nation and almost all English regions saw growth in active job postings in the first week of December. Growth in job adverts was particularly strong in Dorset (+4.3%), Torbay (+3.7%) and Bournemouth & Poole (+3.7%). Other local areas with strong weekly growth in active postings included East Lothian & Midlothian (+4.3%) and Falkirk (+4.3%).
In north-west England, the 2.7% drop in postings was focused mainly in Mid Lancashire (-9.3%), now under England’s highest level of restrictions.
There was a sizeable increase in job adverts for vets (+18.1%) in the first week of December, the REC said, as well as veterinary nurses (+8%). This, it said, was because of the impact of Brexit on the profession, with a high proportion of vets in the UK coming from the EU, and potential changes in food safety and animal welfare standards.
Matthew Mee, director, workforce intelligence at Emsi warned that despite the overall increase in job advert activity, there had been a slight slowdown in new job posting activity over the past month.
He said this was apparent across all UK government regions, with the exception of Northern Ireland with a fall of 14% in the east of England and 11% in the north-east of England.
Mee said this might have been related to the time of year, when hiring activity traditionally winds down, or perhaps because organisations are pausing on new hiring activity until there is greater clarity on a Brexit.
He added: “With redundancy levels now moving beyond levels we saw during the Financial Crisis, 2021 is going to be a critical year for the nation to rebuild, reskill and get back to work.”