The latest UK Job Market Report by job search engine Adzuna has found the UK jobs market remained flat in May, with monthly job vacancies up just +0.01 per cent to 854,248 despite hopes that GDP growth in the three months to April (+0.7 per cent) would give companies more confidence in hiring. While there was a marginal improvement in month-on-month vacancies, annual vacancies continue to decline, down -18.72 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Monthly salary figures have also fallen for the first time since October 2023, down -0.11 per cent to £38,765, despite the recent introduction of the National Living Wage to £11.44/hour. While slightly weaker salaries could help relieve some of the tightness in the UK labour market, it may also suggest increasing vacancies for entry or junior-level roles with lower salaries. In comparison, annual salaries are still up +2.69 per cent compared to May 2023.

Competition is more fierce in May, with 1.91 jobseekers per vacancy, up from 1.89 in April 2024 and the highest since August 2021. This follows the recent news that unemployment reached its highest level in two and a half years, at 4.4 per cent. Salary transparency figures remain stable, with 49.5 per cent of job adverts including salary information and 50.5 per cent without, which is similar to April’s figures (49.6 per cent with, 50.4 per cent without).

The average duration of job postings has fallen again to 36.9, down from 39.0 days the month before, as businesses are keen to snap up skilled staff. The fastest sector for hiring is Legal at 32.5 days followed by teaching, at 33.2 days, whilst the longest sectors are Energy, Oil & Gas at 51.6 days and IT, at 41.6 days.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said: “Hopes that a return to growth in Q1 would result in greater confidence in hiring were not reflected in job vacancies in May, which remained essentially flat. However, there were slight increases in roles in travel, teaching and manufacturing – areas where there have been some entrenched staff shortages. In the meantime, salaries have fallen slightly month-on-month pointing to a slightly less tight labour market and perhaps indicating that companies are beginning to post more junior and entry-level roles. This is balanced by the recent news that unemployment has reached its highest level in two and a half years, at 4.4 per cent.

“The UK job market has been met with resistance in the past few months but the upcoming general election may have the potential to salvage the situation,” he added. “Any outcome is likely to move the needle on the sluggish job market, with both the Conservative and Labour parties pledging to create more jobs. Sectors highlighted in their manifestos, such as healthcare & nursing, energy, oil & gas, and manufacturing, all experienced a vacancy drop of more than 20 per cent year-on-year as of May 2024.”

Tony Wilson, Director at the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “This latest Adzuna data gives us the clearest evidence yet that vacancies have finally stopped dropping, after nearly two years of falling from the stratospheric levels that they reached over the summer of 2022. This is good news for the next government, as with 850 thousand unfilled vacancies there is no shortage of jobs in the economy, and a post-election bounce may well see this number start climbing again. The bigger issue though will be the continued shortages of the right people with the right skills in the right places to do these jobs. Addressing this needs to be a top priority for the next government so that the labour market can help drive higher growth and living standards rather than holding them back. Which means doing more to improve employment support, reform our skills system and work better with employers.”

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