In Between Days – UK graduate labour market news for the week of the 11th May

Go on, go on, just walk away. Sound advice there from Robert Smith and the sound of angry young Crawley, but if you stay there’s labour market information on offer.

As always this is a version of my Luminate piece from today.

Here’s what we hear.

  • Vacancies are down but new vacancy creation has risen again and things might have reached bottom for now
  • Smaller businesses are largely focused on survival and not recruitment
  • There are a lot of reports of finalists having offers rescinded
  • It looks as if there’s likely to be a significant increase in home postgraduate applications.
  • Some employers may be staggering their normal annual graduate intake and have plans to recruit if and when lockdown is eased

A survey by Prospects on finalist’s experiences of the effects of COVID-19 on their careers has revealed that out of the 1,202 final-year university students who responded:

  • 26% had lost their work placement/internship
  • 29% had lost their job
  • 28% had their job offer deferred or cancelled.

Kathleen Henehan at the Resolution Foundation has this report on the prospects for leavers from education. She concludes that education leavers are likely to be particularly badly hit, and that some graduates will find themselves ‘trading down’ to lower-skilled occupations (in which they may  get stuck due to depressed job mobility – this is something that happened in the last recession). Nevertheless, those with lower qualification levels are likely to be more seriously affected as the crisis puts at risk many of the roles that non-graduate education leavers first enter into. The conclusion is that ‘the unique nature of the current crisis has damaged the first rung on the employment ladder for a substantial proportion of education leavers – and it is so far unclear when, and to what extent, these sectors will recover.’

British Chambers of Commerce’s weekly Coronavirus impact tracker,  shows that of 540 business surveyed by the 1st May, 96% of them SMEs, 74% of respondents had furloughed some or all of their staff. 54% had three months or less cash flow in reserve and 4% had no reserves left, but if lockdown were lifted 60% of firms would be ready to restart within a week and a further 29% would need less than 3 weeks to start up again.

The Office of National Statistics also produced analysis of Wave 3 of their Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS), up to April 19th. 23% of responding businesses reported that they had temporarily closed or paused trading to 19 April 2020, while 77% reported that they were continuing to trade

81% of accommodation and food service, and 80% of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses reported temporarily pausing trade compared to only 5% of IT businesses and 3% of professional or business service firms, giving further weight to the proposition that the effects on the graduate labour market may be less than those on non-graduate employment. 30% of businesses reported that their financial performance had not been affected by lockdown. More than half of firms in IT and in health and social care, and just under half of professional and business services firms reported no drop in financial performance to April 19th.

The ONS have also produced this analysis of occupations most exposed to COVID-19, using a clever methodology based around a similar US analysis using data on occupational structures from their excellent resource O*Net.

Jonathan Boys at the Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards has produced an analysis of the skills challenges facing industry, which takes a range of factors, such as exposure to automation, ability to offer flexible working, size of the workforce from the EU and age of workforce to build a picture of risks for key UK industries and then delivers them in a very readable format.

Indeed’s weekly analysis of vacancy data for the UK to May 1st suggests that the vacancies downturn may have started to ease since late April. Total vacancies were down 54% year-on-year for the week, but new vacancies were up 46% from their worst around Easter. Sectors showing a particular increase in new vacancies include community & social service, education & instruction, personal care & home health and nursing.

Adzuna data analysed by the the Institute of Employment Studies up to May 3rd provides a complementary picture. 337,000  vacancies were reported, down 7%, or 27,000, on last week. However, the number of new vacancies went up for the second week. Healthcare and nursing jobs accounted for over one fifth of jobs advertised last week. Just over one in eight new vacancies were in IT.

In summary:

  • The graduate labour market is severely affected but some key graduate employing industries such as IT and business services have experienced only small downturns in business and might be able to recruit later in the year
  • Job creation activity is down on last year but may have begun to increase in April
  • Evidence on geographic impact is mixed, with the sector mix of local labour markets likely to be important
  • There are particular concerns about the impact on apprenticeships and on internships and placement
  • Demand for PG courses are expected to rise.
  • Healthcare and social work recruitment continues and some analysis even has positions increasing. There are also reports that police recruitment has held up well. Recreation and travel, retail, beauty and hospitality and call centre sales work are not having a good time of it.
  • Most businesses believe that once lockdown is lifted it will not take them long to resume operations
  • There’s a lot more of this to go

Stay safe everyone and see you next week.

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