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ONS Job Market Data: October 2020 | UK Recruitment News

Official UK job market data finds a slow but steady recovery of payrolls and vacancies.

The UK job market may be on the long road to recovery. That is the key take-away from the latest set of ONS figures, released today.

The October report finds: an increase in vacancies; a growth in payrolls; and a slight recovery of weekly hours worked. We break down the figures for you.


The data point that recruiters will be most keen to read about is probably the record increase in vacancies. This report found a 30 per cent increase in open positions over the previous quarter. This equates to 144,000 new jobs created, and brings the total number of vacancies to 488,000 for the quarter.

This figure correlates with our own private job market data, which recorded a 42 per cent increase in vacancies from May to September. In our exclusive study, we collected live market data from our own eBoss Jobfeed recruitment software to make the comparison.

The ONS analysis digs a little deeper to find the source of recent job creation. It estimates that the vast majority of roles are being created within organisations of fewer than 50 staff. 43,000 jobs have been created in companies with 10-49 employees. A further 55,000 roles have been created in firms of nine or fewer workers. It is frequently stated that SMEs are the engine of the UK economy. The strength of the jobs recovery in this area of the market would strengthen that claim.

Vacancies by sector

But it is clear that the slowdown is not being felt equally across all sectors. Arts and entertainment has been hardest hit. This quarter found 78.2 per cent fewer vacancies in this sector, compared to pre-lockdown January-March 2020.

By contrast, construction has been among the quickest areas of the private sector to recover. Vacancies in this sector are just 18.2 per cent lower than they were before the pandemic.

But it is the public sector which has recovered the fastest of all. Public administration, defence and social security currently lists vacancies just 11.4 per cent lower than in January 2020.

It should be noted, however, that comparative vacancy figures are stand-alone points of data. They do not express the rate of job creation within a sector or industry. It is therefore possible that public sector vacancies have remained stable because job creation has fallen in line with lower hiring levels, too.



Overall employment stood at 75.6 per cent during the period of study. This is 0.3 per cent lower than both the same period a year earlier, and the previous quarter.


Total unemployment was estimated at 1.52 million people. That is 209,000 more than the same period in 2019, and 138,000 more than in the previous quarter.

Weekly Hours

It is valuable to bear in mind, though, that weekly hours had reached an all-time high in the months directly before the coronavirus outbreak. In August to October 2019, Britons worked a combined 1,056,000,000 per week. And, while recent hours worked have fallen to an all-time low, the working week is at present, approaching that of the 2008 credit crunch. Weekly hours stand at 891,000,000 today, compared with 911,000,000 in August 2009.

Key lessons

However, it is important to read the report within the wider context of the year. While the rapid increase in hours worked and vacancies are undoubtedly good news, current levels still remain far below pre-COVID numbers. This means that, while the recovery may be arriving for some, there is still a majority for whom the side-effects of lockdown are still being felt. It may not be sensible to celebrate a full recovery, at least for now, as this could create a narrative that those left behind have fallen back through a lack of effort or poor planning on their own part.

Just as the pandemic affected each part of society differently, so has the recovery been felt in unequal measures throughout the employment market. There is strong evidence that young professionals have been the hardest hit. And, while SMEs are the fastest to re-hire, they were among the businesses requiring greater support through lockdowns. To assist entrepreneurs and young professionals within the recruitment sector, eBoss has launched the Restartup in Recruitment promotion. Return to work and claim a 20% discount on your eBoss operating costs for six months.

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