Amidst the bad news bombardment we must see the positives

Another day, another set of figures released by the Office for National Statistics that are jumped upon by the press to spell out doom and gloom. Yes, some of the stats are alarming and paint a pretty unhealthy picture of the current state of the jobs market but they’re also not unexpected. And through the rain, there are also hints of the beginnings of a rainbow. It may be faint but that’s what we’ve got to hold onto as we wade forwards.

 

So, what are we looking at? Between June and August, redundancies increased by 114,000 on the quarter, the biggest rise since records began in 1995. During the same period unemployment in the UK rose by 138,000, the largest amount since the previous recession in 2009. Not great but we already knew that redundancies were high. We’ve seen it in the extraordinary influx of applications recruiters have been receiving across the UK.

 

WaveTrackR data for applications has revealed some crazy statistics. The average number of applications received for July was 60% above the March-June average and in August it reached +111%. We also know that in September it only increased further, up to a massive 166% above the March-June average. The winding down of the furlough scheme and a ramping up of restrictions is causing businesses to make redundancies to either stay afloat or because the business itself is no longer viable. A wave of redundancies was inevitable.

 

However, what we also know from our data – and what is reflected in the ONS statistics – is that vacancies are rising, albeit still at levels far below the levels of a year ago. WaveTrackR data for September has shown that, for the first time since the pandemic began, more jobs were posted than in pre-lockdown months – really encouraging statistics. The ONS shows a record quarterly increase of 144,000 vacancies and what’s interesting is that the rise is being driven by smaller businesses. It’s what we predicted and why we tried to help start-ups with our Micro Biz Bundle offer. Back in August, we talked about how a recession can give rise to a wave of start-ups and how they could help kickstart the economy in a Talent Matters webinar and published a blog article on how start-ups can thrive in times of crisis. New LinkedIn data has found that an increasing number of job seekers are turning to small businesses and start-ups as their employer of choice. Start-ups could just play a massive part in leading us out of the recession.

 

Other good news stories? Total hours worked saw a record quarterly increase of 20 million, thanks to businesses re-opening after lockdown and people coming out of furlough. The removal of many of the restrictions and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme undoubtedly played a big part in that. The number of employees on payrolls, which had fallen dramatically in the early months of the pandemic, stopped falling in September and actually increased slightly compared with the previous month. We also know from our data that, whilst some industries are clearly struggling and will continue to struggle, others – take property, construction and IT, for example – are booming.       

 

So, it’s a tale of two halves – just that we’re only hearing about one half. Bad news sells. I’m not denying that there isn’t bad news, especially amongst younger jobseekers and those in customer-facing industries, and this winter could be a bleak one as the jobs market deals with the end of furlough and the inevitability of local lockdowns and further restrictions. However, there are jobs out there and they are on the rise, start-ups are beginning to multiply and have become a jobs provider, and more people are actively working than early on in the pandemic which in turn boosts the economy. We can’t ignore the stats we don’t like but at the same time we’ve got to grab those positive news stories and hold on tight to them – they are what gives us a boost and are what will drive us forwards, whatever the next few months hold.

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