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Vacancies jump as vaccine effect gives UK a 'major jobs boost'

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Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
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A woman using a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office to work from home. Workers told to self-isolate due to coronavirus will receive sick pay from day one, the Prime Minister has announced, as England's Chief Medical Officer warned that a UK epidemic is now "likely". PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 4, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Vacancies have jumped. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Vacancies have jumped since the start of the year as the UK vaccine rollout gives employers the confidence to hire, according to a leading online jobs site.

Data from Adzuna on Friday shows a 16% jump in vacancies posted between the first and last weeks of January.

Employers posted 170,000 new roles, taking total vacancies to 749,000 — more than double the increase seen throughout January last year.

It also marks a stronger recovery than France, Austria and the Netherlands, and hiring levels fell in Germany and Italy throughout January.

“It’s a much-needed piece of good news for jobseekers after months of hardship,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “January saw the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out at pace across the UK and that has filtered through into a major jobs boost.

READ MORE: UK economy to ‘recover rapidly’ thanks to vaccines

“The UK jobs market was hardest hit last year, but is now recovering quicker than the rest of Europe. January was a game-changing month for hiring in many sectors.”

Some 21 of 26 sectors saw vacancies increase. Public relations, human resources and recruitment, science and quality assessment, creative and design and IT roles all leaped more than 30%.

Hunter said employers were “hiring fiercely” for IT roles, with recruitment back at pre-pandemic levels and more than 109,000 job ads in IT live in the final week of January.

Among the biggest companies hiring on the site include Barchester Healthcare, Amazon, Aldi and AECOM.

WATCH: What could scrapping EU labour rights mean for UK workers?

But vacancies in social work, travel, hospitality and catering, graduate jobs and teaching all saw declines throughout the month.

Vacancies at the end of January also remained at just 78% of levels seen in the same week a year earlier. Hiring in London appears volatile, falling to just 63% of prior-year levels at the end of January, after spiking at 85% only a week earlier.

Other data also paints a less promising picture of the UK labour market and economy more widely.

READ MORE: UK government warned ‘little appetite’ for curbing UK workers’ rights

The rebound was weaker than Adzuna figures showed in Australia and New Zealand as both countries eased restrictions, including travel between the two.

The pandemic and lockdown restrictions continue to hammer many UK industries, with industry data this week showing the biggest drop in activity in the dominant services sector since last May. The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey showed staffing levels falling for an 11th month and lay-offs intensifying.

New figures from the Recruitment & Employers Confederation (REC) and KPMG show permanent staff appointments dropped at their sharpest pace since June last month, and growth slowing for temporary staff.

“Economic uncertainty is weighing on employers’ minds even where they see potential for their own firm to grow,” said Neil Carberry, REC chief executive.

He called for the furlough scheme, VAT deferrals and loan schemes to be extended to help employers.

READ MORE: UK unemployment at its highest since 2016

Meanwhile official employment data late published last month showed the UK unemployment rate at its highest level since 2016. 5% of the workforce was actively job-hunting in December, and tax data showed employers had 828,000 fewer staff than the previous February.

But the contrasting impressions of the labour market could be explained by timelags between different datasets.

Many of the January appointments recorded in the REC survey of employers will have been advertised late last year. The pick-up in job ads seen by Adzuna will likely filter through into appointment data in weeks and months to come.

“With the vaccination programme making progress, it’s likely that a path out of the pandemic is emerging. As that happens, we expect a strong recovery in permanent hiring,” added Carberry.

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