Tentative signs of stability revealed in September’s WaveTrackR data report

After months of soaring application figures and sluggish jobs numbers, WaveTrackR data is showing signs of stability in the market as September ends and October begins.

Application numbers are starting to decrease, which is hopefully an indication that candidates are being placed in positions with increased frequency. Jobs are on the up, experiencing a post-lockdown high of 122% above the March-June average as the month waned. In short, the gap between jobs available and applications received for those jobs is beginning to narrow, even if we are still in the very early stages of recovery. The outlook for November onwards, with the furlough scheme ending and the potential for the virus to rebound in the winter months, is uncertain but if we begin from a more stable position we will be in better shape to cope with whatever is thrown at us.

The WaveTrackR data report reveals that September was a strange month, somewhat of a rollercoaster for both jobs and applications, with stability only starting to be seen towards the end of the month and into the start of October. Applications soared up to a year-high figure in early September of an extraordinary 204% above the March-June average, before tumbling to (a still very high) 132% over the average for that period. They then rocketed again before falling once more. The start of the month saw jobs gradually fall but then pick up and continued to rise until we reached peak post-lockdown figures of 122% over the March-June average. 

It is easier to see the market improving when looked at month by month. Other than a slight dip in jobs in August, both jobs and applications have been on an upward trajectory since June. September is the highest performing month for jobs since March and applications are soaring above the figures for any month this year.

Admittedly, the extraordinary figures for applications have obviously been driven by mass redundancies but it is good news that jobs are also rising. The number of jobs posted is clearly far lower than application numbers and they still haven’t reached pre-lockdown figures for the year, but it is enough to represent a positive level of activity that we hope will continue. With the media’s dramatic headlines and a general sense of fear and uncertainty currently pervading, it is easy to think everything is falling apart once more. Looking at job posting and applications month by month is therefore somewhat of a reality check – and a heartening one at that.

When it comes to industry performance for jobs and applications, there is one industry that is clearly currently buoyant. Property has had a fantastic month, being September’s most popular industry for both jobs posted and applications. As much of the economy is taking a battering, house prices continued to rise in September to meet a huge – and unexpected – demand for property. Following a total freeze in the market during lockdown which impacted deals and moves that had already begun to progress at the beginning of the year, the stamp duty holiday, and a tide of behavioural shifts driving a lifestyle rethink, the property market is booming. As schools began to return in September, the Education sector posted the second-highest number of jobs and with staff having to periodically isolate for testing, jobs in education are likely to remain high. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the rise in digital services and products needed, IT & Internet remains a popular industry for both jobs and applications. 

Finance received a relatively high number of applications but doesn’t make it into the top five sectors for jobs posted, highlighting a disparity between the number of jobs available in the sector and the volume of candidates seeking roles within it. The same applies to Engineering, a sector hard hit by the pandemic. Transport & Logistics and Public Sector posted relatively high numbers of jobs but the industries don’t feature in the top five for applications, indicating a skills shortage and a larger than usual demand for workers. These are two areas that could be bolstered by candidates struggling to find work in other industries. As some jobs fall away, candidates may have to look to those industries that are actively hiring, whether as a short term solution or as a longer-term career shift.

The end of October represents an important moment in the fight for economic recovery, with the furlough scheme wrapping up but millions estimated to be furloughed still. It is a cliff-edge beyond which no-one really knows what might lie, though the expectation is a mass of redundancies and thousands, perhaps millions, more workers joining the ever-fluctuating talent pool. Yet this is why these tentative signs of stability are so important as it is a far better place from which to deal with the impact to the market that is undoubtedly coming in November.    

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