Totaljobs Barometer report: Q1 2013

According to the latest figures from the Totaljobs Barometer, the jobs market has remained pretty static over the past year. With conflicting reports every day of triple-dip recessions, drops in unemployment and of a general lack of confidence in the economy, a 0.4% drop in the jobs posted in Q1 2013 compared to the same period last year seems like reason for mild optimism. A 13% increase in jobs from the last quarter can be discounted as seasonal, as January always produces a raft of new vacancies as people search for new roles.

Interestingly, though, we’ve noticed a fairly big dip in the competition for jobs. This time last year, 20 people applied for every job advertised on totaljobs; in the first three months of 2013, however, this dropped to 18. It’s great news for jobseekers, who have seen competition reach unprecedented levels in the past year – but does it point to workforce where the people in jobs are more determined than ever to stick rather than twist?

Regional jobs breakdown

Looking at the stats on a regional basis, an intriguing pattern emerges: those regions traditionally seen as affluent encounter huge declines, while the areas which have struggled in recent times show significant uplift. As a result, companies in Wales (11%), Scotland (8%) and the West Midlands (8%) posted nearly 5,000 additional jobs between the three regions in the first quarter of this year. Interestingly, though, competition for jobs in the West Midlands actually fell by 17% (from 23 to 19), which certainly presents a confusing picture.

Continuing trends we’ve seen in recent Barometer reports, London sees the biggest fall in the number of jobs posted when comparing year-on-year figures. A 9% drop in the number of positions advertised in the capital represents a 7,000 shortfall in jobs in the first three months of 2013. It’s hardly surprising then that London remains the most competitive region in which to find a job, with more than 25 people applying for every position advertised there. And this is further cemented by significant falls in East Anglia (9%) and the South East (3%).

Sector comparisons

The sector breakdown reveals significant swings in jobs posted, with some industries growing by over 50% year-on-year while others have fallen to the tune of 20%. Social services, one of the bedrocks of the public sector, grew by a massive 59% in the past year. Education, another public sector standard, grew by a substantial 39%, while health and nursing moved up 20%. We’ve been saying it in our Barometer reports for a good while now, but reports of the death of the public sector may have been slightly premature.

In other industries, accounting saw a huge 54% rise, while legal fell by 20% and banking dropped 16%. Oil and gas grew by 35%, which may account for the huge growth in Scotland, while the construction industry will be cheered by the news that construction jobs increased by 17% in the last year.

In terms of competition, the usual suspects remain the most difficult for jobseekers. Secretarial (46), customer services (42) and retail (31) are all way more competitive than other sectors, but all show a steady drop in the number of jobs we see applying for each job (secretarial is down from an all-time high of 49, for example).

What does it all mean?

So, the figures would seem to raise the following issues:

1. Is a largely stable jobs market over the past year a good or a bad thing for the economy?

2. Competition for jobs is down for the first time in a long while. Are fewer people prepared to gamble on a new job these days?

3. With London and the South East shrinking and Wales and Scotland on the up, are we going to see a continued reverse in recent trends?

4. We’re seeing huge variations across sectors? Are some industries really doing so much better than others?

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