From education to employment

Bounce back in demand for workers in some areas – REC

Guy pointing to board of post notes
  • The number of active postings in January 2024 was 1,813,663, a 4.2% increase from December 2023.
  • There were 873,169 new job postings in January 2024 – a 27.9% increase from the month before.
  • In January 2024 Tower Hamlets (20.3%), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (19.4%) and Newry, Mourne and Down (14.3%) had the highest growth in job postings when compared to December 2023.
  • And ahead of the Spring Budget, the jobs data raises concerns that certain worker shortages could both hinder young people’s life chances and the chances of parents returning to work.

Demand for workers rebounded in January after a lull in the labour market at the end of 2023, according to the latest Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Lightcast Labour Market Tracker.

There were more than 870,000 new job postings in January 2024, meaning there are more than 1.8 million active job postings in the UK.

REC Deputy Chief Executive Kate Shoesmith said:

“We have started 2024 with a slight bounce back in demand for workers in some white collar and blue-collar jobs, after a subdued finish to 2023. This calming is only to be expected after the red-hot labour market as we came out of the pandemic, and activity today remains relatively high by comparison to the pre-pandemic period in some sectors.

“Businesses tell us they are not feeling sure-footed enough to jump into the kind of investing and hiring they want and need to do to meet their growth ambitions, because the UK economy has been essentially stuck in one place for 18 months.

“And that’s where we need a strong response from government and the policymakers. The Spring Budget presents an ideal opportunity to work on the issues holding back broader economic growth and productivity gains. We need policy interventions that incentivise businesses to invest in those areas that will tackle skills and labour shortages, and reduce economic inactivity. While public resources may be limited, simple measures that support people in finding a job, getting to work and staying in work, from transport to childcare, can all make a difference.”

The Labour Market Tracker also shows:

  • The number of active job postings for Early Education and Childcare Practitioners in January 2024 was up 146.2% on pre-pandemic levels (February 2020). And 5.5% higher than in January 2023. 
  • Likewise, active job postings for Early Education and Childcare Assistants in January 2024 are up 30.2% on pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).
  • And active job postings for Primary Education Teaching Professionals are up 10.4% on pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).

Kate Shoesmith, REC Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“The past few years have shown that advertising for staff and finding them are two different things. There is little hope of filling such a high level of vacancies any time soon given the serious labour shortages in the UK, a problem which creates a vicious cycle.

“The government must develop a coherent workforce plan for the UK if it is serious about lessening the risk that young people’s life chances are impaired by ongoing worker and skills shortages in these vital roles around providing care or early education for them. For example, last year the government announced a large-scale rollout of childcare provision to take place through 2024 and 2025 but that’s proving difficult without increased staffing levels. This is why a long-term workforce plan which joins the dots between different policies around employment and economic growth is so important.

“The vicious cycle for the economy is that we are unable with these types of vacancies to give children the best chances in life while at the same time relying on these same young people to help us thrive in employment and help overcome labour shortages in the future. Added to this is that without enough childcare provision, many parents cannot return to work even if they want to, putting further strain on the labour market.

“We urge the government to think much more long term about workforce needs across all sectors and to develop a plan to increase childcare and the primary education workforce in partnership with childcare providers and labour market experts such as recruiters. The government could also make it easier to access childcare provision by removing bureaucracy such as quickening up access to childcare providers and lessening the frequency of proving eligibility for both the 30-hours entitlement and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. And expanding access to childcare support to those in training and education to remove barriers to employment. The government can even go as far as granting a business rates exemption to all early years providers to boost the availability of childcare.”

Occupations with notable increases in adverts in January 2024 include Quality Control and Planning Engineers (68.9%), Childminders (55.8%) and Probation Officers (52.1%). There was also growing demand for Visual Merchandisers (who design eye-catching product displays and store layouts) and Related Occupations (37.0%), Vehicle Valeters and Cleaners (33.6%) and Animal Care Services Occupations n.e.c (27.8%).

Grey collar roles such as Prison Service Officers, Below Principal Officer (-39.4%), Driving Instructors (-37.0%) and Postal Workers, Mail Sorters, Messengers and Couriers (-29.3%) all showed the largest decline in roles from December 2023 to January 2024.

Across the UK, Tower Hamlets (20.3%), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (19.4%) and Newry, Mourne and Down (14.3%) had the highest growth in job postings when compared to December 2023. Westminster (-15.0%), Dumfries and Galloway (-9.4%) and West Dunbartonshire (-8.6%) all accounted for the sharpest decline in job postings.

When looking at the top ten counties/unitary authorities for growth in active job postings, four were based in Northern Ireland. This paints a more positive picture than last month, where low growth was mostly contained in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

For the second month in a row, Tower Hamlets saw the highest growth in active job postings in the UK. Of the bottom ten areas with the lowest growth in active job postings, six were in Scotland. This is similar to the previous month, where similarly five of the bottom ten were in Scotland.

Sector Response

Helen Hayes MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, commenting on the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s (REC) Labour Market Tracker figures out today, showing a 146 per cent increase in the number of childcare vacancies, said:

“Today’s figures from the REC make clear what Labour has been saying all along: Tory childcare announcements were a pledge without a plan. 

“Not enough staff means not enough places, means parents missing out on work choices and children missing out on life chances. Delivering the high quality modern childcare system our children deserve can’t be done on the back of an envelope. 

“That’s why Labour has commissioned Sir David Bell, former chief inspector of Ofsted, to lead a review which will set out a plan to deliver the high quality, accessible childcare that parents and children need. High and rising standards must be for all our children, not just a lucky few.”

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