The UK job market continued to show resilience in May as vacancies and salaries increased for the fourth consecutive month – but graduates are going to find it hard to secure their first role, according to the UK Job Market Report by job search engine Adzuna.

May saw almost 5,000 more new vacancies go live than in April, with the total number of job postings across the UK sitting at 1.051 million – up +0.48 per cent from last month. At the same time, average annual advertised salaries increased by +0.24 per cent to £37,750.

The increases in March and April suggest the improving trend is holding steady, something official figures have recently begun to reflect. In April, vacancies across the UK were almost a fifth lower than they were during the same period last year, yet by May the year-on-year gap had shrunk to -16.8 per cent.

The company reports that the market continues to be tough for graduates, most of whom will finish their courses now and be looking to join the workforce over the coming months.

Graduate roles started 2023 at -8.3 per cent down in December and this figure has continued falling, month-on-month, to the point where there has been a total -20.8 per cent drop in vacancies for university leavers over the past five months. Year-on-year, the number of advertised graduate vacancies (12,983) is -11.6 per cent lower than in May 2022 (14,690). The available graduate roles are taking almost 40 days to fill, on average – among the longest of any sector. This could be because there is less urgency among employers to fill graduate roles as they know there are lots of candidates out there, whilst more applications per role can mean a higher workload for employers to process applications to find the best candidates.

Competition for grad jobs is particularly tight this year. With around 570,000 UK students set to graduate this year according to figures from HESA, around 44 graduates will be vying for every available opportunity in summer 2023, up from 36 graduates per role a year ago.

On the plus side, average annual graduate salaries have been steadily increasing over the past 12 months. In May, this figure hit £27,802 – up +0.49 per cent on April, but up +6.62 per cent compared to this time last year.

Elsewhere, there were positive signs across many of the individual sectors analysed by Adzuna, reversing declines seen in three-quarters of sectors (77 per cent) in April. By May, vacancies remained steady or had increased across a quarter of sectors with the biggest month-on-month rise being seen across Travel (+7.38 per cent), ahead of the summer season. Hospitality and Catering jobs continued to grow by +4.61 per cent, with 76,441 advertised vacancies available in May, +10.97 per cent higher than the 68,886 seen three months ago.

However, after months of increases, jobs in the Energy, Oil and Gas sector, as well as Nursing roles declined by -1.2 per cent and -1.1 per cent respectively in May. In the case of nursing, this was the first decline since February. Elsewhere, IT roles continued to fall (-4.5 per cent), as did vacancies in Logistics and warehouse (-3.9 per cent), HR and Recruitment (-3.17 per cent) and Graduate roles (-1.86 per cent).

“Continuing its upward trajectory, the UK job market remains resilient, with another month of increasing vacancies and rising salaries,” commented Andrew Hunter, co-founder at Adzuna. “While the growth may be modest, compared to previous months, it still signifies a steady trend and a new peak for 2023, helping to narrow the gap from last year. However, challenges persist for graduates, facing a tough market with decreasing vacancies. Amidst these dynamics, competition for jobs is intensifying, and roles are being filled faster than ever before. Adaptability and strategic choices are key to navigating the evolving landscape.”


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