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Coronavirus: How the jobs market fared this week

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·4-min read
Closeup Young Asian woman graduate holding the resume document and preparing to two manager before start to job interview with positive motion in meeting room,Business Hiring new member concept
The jobs market is increasingly in the spotlight as the coronavirus continues to induce economic havoc. Photo: Getty

The jobs market has been under the microscope this week, as businesses in sectors hit by the coronavirus pandemic evaluate what the best way forward is.

There have been some glimmers of hope. New research by Reed.co.uk has shown the UK labour market has shown some early signs of recovery.

The recruiter saw 120,000 new postings added to the site in July — an 8% month-on-month increase.

Job vacancies are beginning to rise in almost all sectors, with 34 out of 38 sectors listed on the site experiencing an increase between June and July.

Vacancies in the charity sector rose by 1356%, scientific sector job listings went up by 245%, and the public sector increased 82%.

Only four sectors saw a drop in job postings — apprenticeships, graduate training, health and medicine, and social care.

Meanwhile, global recruitment agency Hays (HAS.L) is also seeing a “modest” improvement in the jobs market and is hopeful it can get back to growing its business.

Hays said in its full-year results on Thursday that its fees were stable in May and June, after sharp falls in the proceeding month. The company, which also provides HR services, said it was seeing a “modest” improvement in recruitment for permanent roles. Its temp business is stable.

In recent months Hays was forced to lay off and furlough hundreds of staff in response to the pandemic. 18% of staff were on government work support schemes at the end of June, while headcount was cut by 9% during the year.

Hays said it expected staffing levels to decrease again in the coming year. The company has over 10,000 employees across 33 countries.

Despite this positive news, other sectors are still feeling the heat.

The High Street: Pret A Manger cutting 2,800 jobs as it closes 30 stores

Pret a Manger said on Thursday that it would close 30 of its outlets and axe around 2,800 roles at the coffee and sandwich chain, almost triple the number of expected job cuts.

The company, which cited the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a huge drop-off in sales when it launched a two-month consultation process with employees in early July, said it had been “forced to take the difficult decision” to axe thousands of jobs.

While Pret had not indicated how many jobs were at risk, reports at the time suggested that only 1,000 roles were at risk as a result of the closures.

The company said on Thursday that, while it had seen a “significant improvement” in August, trade across the UK is still down 60% compared to a year ago.

The Arts: More than half of arts workers still on furlough

New data this week also showed that the UK’s arts, entertainment, and recreation industry has been the most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic of any sector in the country, with the highest number of firms at risk of collapse and more than half of its workers on furlough.

Some 23% of businesses in the sector believe their risk of insolvency is severe to moderate, more than double the average across all industries, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Around 51% of the industry’s workforce were still on furlough as part of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme between 27 July and 9 August.

That compares with an average of just 13% across all industries, the ONS said. The accommodation and food services industry is the next most affected: Almost 27% of its workers were on furlough during the two-week period.

Aviation: MPs call for furlough support

The travel sector is undoubtedly one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and the UK government is facing fresh calls for support.

Over 100 MPs on Friday joined forces with trade union Unite to call for a long-term extension of the UK government’s wage subsidy scheme for the country’s aviation sector.

In an open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the MPs said that the move would provide “much-needed stability” to the sector, warning that there was otherwise “no realistic prospect” for a quick return to normal for the industry.

The scheme, which has seen as many as 9.4 million UK workers placed on furlough during the coronavirus pandemic, is currently set to be wound down at the end of October.

The open letter comes as the aviation sector continues to confront an unprecedented crisis in coronavirus.