The UK jobs market experienced its biggest monthly fall in vacancies in over three years in December, as business confidence in the UK continues to contract according to the UK Job Market Report by job search engine Adzuna.

Total advertised job vacancies dropped -6.95 per cent in December to 929,138, the second month in a row that the total vacancies are lower than 1 million. Early data also anticipates that January could be equally tough, with vacancies expected to decrease again, by between -6 per cent and -8 per cent. The last time job vacancies fell this dramatically was in June 2020 when monthly vacancies dropped -18.14 per cent as businesses struggled to get to grips with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fall in vacancies also means competition for jobs is now the highest it’s been since September 2021, at 1.68 jobseekers per vacancy. This is compared to May and June when it was at its 2023 lowest, at 1.45.

This paints a difficult picture for people looking for new roles this new year. However, it’s not all bad, with average advertised salaries on the rise, up +0.96 per cent monthly to £37,577, and up +2.28 per cent on an annual basis. This may point to a lack of entry-level or junior positions available, with companies hiring only for more senior roles.

More job adverts are neglecting to include salary data (50.2 per cent) compared to those that do. This makes it hard for potential candidates to understand the seniority of a role and if it is relevant for them to apply for.

Teaching was the only sector to experience a rise in monthly job vacancies in December, up +4.39 per cent compared to November and an increase of +38.32 per cent compared to 2022’s figures. Teaching was also the sector with the shortest time to fill for roles, at 30.9 days on average, up from 37.8 the previous month, whilst the average for all sectors was 35.6 days.

Every other sector saw a monthly fall in advertised job vacancies throughout December, with the biggest falls in Retail (-17.94 per cent), Manufacturing (-17.05 per cent), Hospitality & Catering (-14.13 per cent) and Trade & Construction (-13.56 per cent). The availability of Graduate roles has also continued to suffer with live job advertisements down -8.4 per cent compared to November. The sector also takes the longest to fill roles, on average 47.2 days, which points to high competition in the sector for a smaller number of available opportunities.

Due to positive growth in average advertised salaries in the UK, there was almost widespread growth in sector salaries. The biggest increases were in Creative & Design jobs, up +2.15 per cent to £39,112 and Retail jobs, up +2.19 per cent to £28,097. IT and Maintenance were the only two sectors to see average advertised salaries fall -1 per cent and -1.65 per cent respectively. IT advertised salaries were also down -8.66 per cent on an annual basis. Whilst this may seem like more bad news for the IT sector, this was one of the smallest decreases in salaries the sector has experienced in the past year, demonstrating that fortunes may be turning.

Social Work jobs saw the biggest increase in advertised salaries compared to the same time last year, up +11.54 per cent to £34,446, followed by Travel, up +10.77 per cent to £32,276, and Energy, Oil & Gas, up +10.69 per cent to £44,949.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said: “Jobseekers hoping for a positive start to the year won’t be happy to see December’s data with roles down nearly 7 per cent compared to November and nearly 13 per cent compared to the same time in 2022. This will likely continue into January with data so far indicating that jobs are expected to drop further before they begin picking up. Yet salaries have remained strong despite the dip in vacancies, particularly in the regions where the East Midlands is continuing to experience some of the highest annual growth rates. The tide appears to be turning for the IT sector too with negative growth slowing, which is good to see considering it is an ever-growing employer in the UK.”

Tony Wilson, Director at the Institute for Employment Studies, added: “Hiring is clearly slowing down, but worryingly this data also suggests that there’s been little if any rebound in activity in the new year. Ordinarily, we would expect quite a strong bounce back in recruitment after Christmas, but the fact that this hasn’t happened this year suggests that a lot of firms are holding back given wider uncertainty in the economy or are themselves feeling the pinch as people rein in their spending. Either way, this doesn’t suggest a great start to the year in the labour market.”

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