Totaljobs Barometer report: Q3 2012

The UK jobs market continued to buck expected trends by showing decent growth in the third quarter of 2012, with improvements of 5% from the same period last year and 4% compared to the previous quarter. Is this down to the much-publicised ‘Olympic effect’? Well, this quarter showed the biggest July and August we’ve seen yet on the Barometer, with 10% and 8% year-on-year increases respectively, which would certainly point to a topical boost.

Applications continue to surge, showing that, as a whole, getting a job is becoming more of a challenge for jobseekers. An 8% year-on-year increase, allied to a 9% growth from the second quarter, certainly demonstrates that applications are growing at a much quicker rate than the number of jobs posted. And this is perfectly demonstrated by the applications per job stats, up by a hefty 4% from the previous quarter and a more moderate 2% year-on-year. Whichever way you cut the data, more people are competing for jobs than ever before.

Regional jobs breakdown

Looking at the picture across the UK’s regions, two clear stories emerge. London, the largest of our regions, showed a significant 7% drop in the number of jobs posted compared to last year’s Q3 figures (which certainly implies that the Olympics didn’t have a great impact on employment in the capital). However, applications actually grew in the same period, with the net result that applications per job is up 11%. With fewer jobs than last year, but even more competition, finding employment in London isn’t getting any easier.

The picture in the North West is the complete opposite, however, with a huge 18% increase in the number of jobs posted year on year, but a much smaller growth in applications of 8%. As a consequence, the North West is the only region in the UK where competition for jobs has actually decreased in the last year: this time last year, 23 people were going for every job, but this has shrunk to 21. Considering the North West is the third biggest region in terms of sheer numbers, this is a worrying trend.

Interestingly, Northern Ireland’s quarterly comparisons are similar to London’s year-on-year figures, with a massive 14% drop in jobs posted leading to a huge 26% increase in the number of applications per job. Scotland, however, mirrors the North West, with a hefty year-on-year increase in jobs posted (15%), but a minute drop in applications per job.

Overall, the picture is largely positive, with the North West and the North East showing identical 18% year-on-year jobs growth and only London and East Anglia shrinking (with 7% and 1% respectively). Despite the spikes and dips in competition, it’s worth noting that every region shows significant increases in applications when compared to both the last quarter and this time last year.

We know that the news is filled with downbeat predictions of the double-dip, but three regions we haven’t mentioned yet, East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire, actually posted the highest quarterly jobs figures since the Barometer began in 2009.

Sector comparisons

If there’s one thing that recent Barometer stats have shown, it’s that the public sector isn’t quite as close to death’s door as many doomsayers were predicting. Four of the five fastest-growing sectors in terms of year-on-year job increases have a distinctly public flavour to them. Education tops the growers, with a massive 69% increase from this time last year, with transport and logistics on 48%, social services increasing by 43%, health and nursing by 41% and public sector itself by 28%.

So, the public sector appears to be in rude health, but negative publicity about the UK’s biggest employer have led to an obvious crisis in jobseeker confidence. Competition for jobs in education, social services and public sector have all fallen by roughly a quarter since last year. It certainly seems that people aren’t applying for public sector jobs to the same extent they were last year, but is this because they simply don’t know the vacancies exist or because they’ve decided that a move to the private sector makes much more sense?

On the flipside of the coin, recruitment sales, human resources, catering & hospitality, travel & tourism and banking all saw substantial year-on-year drops in the number of jobs posted (23%, 12%, 11%, 10% and 9% respectively) but all posted between 8-12% increases in applications per job, demonstrating once and for all that fewer jobs spells bad news for jobseekers in a sector.

In terms of competition for jobs, secretarial, PAs and administration (45), customer services (40) and retail & wholesale (35) again boast the most applications per job, but it’s worth mentioning the electronics sector, which has seen a 58% increase in competition from last year.

What does it all mean?

This quarter’s figures raise the following points:

  1. Did the Olympics have a positive or negative effect on the jobs market? Looking at the nationwide picture, there was a definite upturn in July and August, but this is offset by a big dip in London, where you would expect the biggest benefit.
  2. We may be in a double-dip recession, but there are still more jobs available in several regions of the UK than there have been since the start of 2009.
  3. Reports of the death of the public sector have been greatly exaggerated.
  4. We’re up at 18 applications for every job advertised. That’s a lot of pressure for jobseekers to deal with.

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