Hiring market: Which regions are being hardest hit?

It’s no secret that the recruitment market is tough. We have seen vacancies decline, which, in the shadow of the post-pandemic highs many firms rode, is making life more difficult for even the most seasoned recruiters. However, for a large number of leaders in the profession, this isn’t the first time that we’ve faced a more competitive market or a hiring slowdown.

If we look at some of the lessons of the financial crash of 2008 or previous recessions in the UK, the ability to follow where trends are going and adapt at speed was the saving grace for many businesses. So, what is the latest data telling us beyond the tightening of the labor market?

Jobs Moving out of London

APSCo members are privy to a wealth of detailed research and data on the global recruitment market, including the latest insights from business intelligence specialist, VacancySoft. In the firm’s most recent trends report, we can see some interesting themes emerging, including a potential vacancy drain from London as businesses look to streamline costs.

According to VacancySoft, with the cost-of-living crisis driving salaries up, there has been a move towards recruiting outside of London in order to provide the pay increases people are looking for, without breaking budgets. Indeed, the capital’s share of vacancies dropped below 40% in 2023, having stayed above this during 2021 and 2022, evidence that there is a shift towards hiring outside of the city.

Wales and the North Looking Optimistic

If jobs are moving out of the capital, the question, then, is where are they going? Looking at the statistics, Wales was the only region to see an increase in vacancies year-on-year in 2023. It should be noted, though, that the region’s share of professional jobs in the UK is still small despite this uptick.

Looking at the data, the North appears to be one of the most resilient regions at the moment, with the North West and Manchester performing particularly. While the North of the country has seen an overall decline in vacancies of 20% year-on-year at the end of 2023, it is the smallest decline reported across the country.

In comparison, while the South East of England holds the second largest share of the professional jobs, the region reported a 29.9% decline in jobs annually in 2023. It is interesting to note as well that there has been an uptick in location-neutral jobs as hybrid and remote working remains highly sought after. Before the pandemic, less than 1% of vacancies were not location specific, according to VacancySoft’s data. This figure has now risen to 4.5%. Whether this remains the case for long is yet to be seen, particularly with firms increasingly pushing for office returns.

PREMIUM CONTENT: February 2024 Jobs Report

Industry Nuances

When we drill down into industries, it’s unsurprising to see that technology vacancies declined significantly last year, dropping 56% when compared to 2022, in light of widespread redundancies in the sector. With vacancies overall down last year, we see an expected fall in jobs across all but two areas; Industrials / Engineering (including Aerospace and Defence) and Not-For-Profit (NFP)/

With the Defence sector reporting widespread skills shortages — with a recent report from Guidant Global revealing that 83% of defense employers believe that the UK will fall behind in terms of technology development in the sector due to a lack of skills — the increase in job numbers is to be expected. Within NFP, this uptick can be attributed to mass proliferation of charities in the UK.

It may be a tough time for recruiters, but knowing where the pockets of opportunity lie — and capitalizing on these — will be paramount in the months ahead. Those that can turn challenges into opportunities will better weather the uncertainty that has for too long been the norm.

Ann Swain

Ann Swain
Ann Swain is global CEO of APSCo.

Ann Swain

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