UK jobs market relatively unscathed by COVID, study finds

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·Business Reporter, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
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Jobs Centre Plus in London
While vacancies are high across the board, many of the new opportunities facing job seekers are in relatively low-paying jobs. Photo: Press Association

The coronavirus pandemic has not drastically changed the UK labour market, with around 20% more job vacancies than there were before pre-COVID, new research has found.

According to data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the overall amount of change in the occupational mix of vacancies is no greater than would be expected over a normal two-year period.

This had changed no more since then than between 2017 and 2019, the IFS said.

The research used data on workers and jobseekers from the Labour Force Survey, and online job vacancy data from Adzuna, up to and including February 2022.

The group added that on a sectoral level, where there have been big increases in job posts, there was no evidence as of yet to suggest that this has pushed wages higher.

Read more: UK basic pay falls behind inflation at fastest rate in eight years

However, it did highlight that there has been a shift towards vacancies in lower-skilled, lower-paid occupations.

Job openings for warehouse workers in the five months to February 2022 were more than double their pre-pandemic level, and vacancies for drivers were 80% higher than in the same months before the health crisis.

In contrast, there was little change in the number of vacancy postings for teachers, and the number of nursing and midwifery vacancies was lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Among unemployed workers without a degree, 70% have seen the number of job opportunities for which they might have the appropriate prior experience increase by more than 40%.

Fewer than half of those with a degree compared have seen an equivalent increase in opportunities.

This means that, while vacancies are high across the board, many of the new opportunities facing job seekers are in relatively low-paying jobs.

Read more: UK economy faces strong headwinds as firms face record high inflationary pressure

“The pandemic has not led to a huge change in the mix of jobs demanded, but the shift towards lower-skilled occupations is potentially concerning,” Xiaowei Xu, a senior research economist at IFS and an author of the report, said.

“There are signs that vacancies today are still affected by transitory factors, for example pent-up demand for job moves over the pandemic and the fall in EU migrants, so it is possible that this will fade over time.

“That said, the specific occupations that have seen large increases in vacancies – drivers and warehouse workers – are consistent with a shift in consumer preferences towards home delivery, which could indicate a more permanent change in labour demand.”

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