Job Vacancies – New Year Update

Even I’m worried now, as the economic forecasters’ & commentators’ inconsolable wailing has combined with -8 degrees outside and mince-pie withdrawal symptoms to send a chill down the most hardened optimist’s spine.

When things get tough, I need the geek equivalent of comfort food – a spreadsheet and some nice warming stats and graphs. It’s a bit early for a monthly update on the number of job ads received, as the Christmas break means there hasn’t been time for many ads to be placed since I last blogged about this, but I did start wondering about downturns and recessions of yore, and how we fared then.

Our figures don’t go back to the last true recessions in the early 80’s and 90’s, but we do have records from 2002-3, at the latter part of the last 2001-2 downturn, when the finance sector and others last shed large numbers of jobs (see more from this era here).

To compare, I’ve plotted the cumulative number of job ads received by the Careers Service from the start of the academic years 2002/3, 2007/8 (both up to mid March) and 2008/9 (up to the present).


2002/3 was the year with the lowest monthly average number of job ads on our database – 192. To compare, last year the average number of job ads on our database over the twelve months was 375.  As the graduate and postgraduate job market is cyclical, it’s not valid to compare the monthly average, part way through the year, so I prefer to look at the cumulative picture. If this year’s figures start to head towards the 2002/3 totals, we’ll have good cause to be worried.

As I’m not an economist, I like my statistical analysis kept quite simple, so I found the BBC page from the beginning of December entitled “Britain’s jobless: In statistics” helpful. It’s also good to see some of the definitions – did you realise that if some commentator starts bandying around “jobless totals of nearly 10 million”, that includes most of you, as students?

However, before you think that this year must be a write off, there are currently still 354 full time job ads on our vacancy list, even though now is traditionally the low point in the year for our job vacancies. Even agencies still have “300,000 unfilled vacancies” on their books, according to Kevin Green, the Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (though he doesn’t say how he gets to  that figure). It seems clear though that however many jobs there are, the competition will be keener than ever this year.

With the CIPD highlighting the costs involved in making people redundant, we are also now seeing some unusual responses to the economic crisis. This morning I heard of a local company in the building sector where the staff have taken a significant pay cut to safeguard jobs – but where they are also having to consider taking on a couple of new staff to deal with an unexpected (but welcome) new contract.

These are topsy turvy times, so it will pay to keep as up to date as you can with the job market. At the risk of getting incestuous, have a look at my former colleague, Fiona Christie’s blog (she’s now at Salford, focusing on PhDs) where she gives her take on the current situation (and links to this blog – thanks Fiona). I’ll also be keeping a close watch on whatever Charlie Ball and co at HECSU are saying about the graduate and postgraduate job market on their blog (subtitled “Leading Research Into Graduate Careers” – a source I would trust). [Update – also see Charlie’s comment below.]


4 comments on “Job Vacancies – New Year Update

  1. I think now’s a good time for us all to share as much information as we can. We’re hearing alarming stories of students being so sure that there are no jobs at all that they have decided not to try looking for work this year – yet we know there are jobs available.

    And, even then, there’s always PG study!

    • Thanks Charlie.

      Happy to share what hard data we’ve got. We did think hard about making specific job ad data public, but as we’re in the fortunate position of not being a commercial operation, we couldn’t see a good reason to keep it all secret! I understand that other vacancy sites like Graduate Prospects, etc probably can’t be as open, but anything you can share with us would be gratefully received, if only to counteract (or encourage) the gloom-mongers.

      Of course, if things get really bad and we change our approach to soliciting vacancies, that will make year on year comparisons less valid, but until then, I hope to keep this as a monthly update.

  2. Interesting data Elizabeth. Within the sciences, we’re also seeing a decline in recruitment, with the number of jobs being posted in the New Scientist (in print anyway) being down for a few months now as an example.

    There seems to be two issues for the scientific community. The first of these being the credit crunch, which is starting to bite SMEs. I am aware of a few who either have lost funding or have less of it and are making people redundant/going in to adminstration.

    The second is independant of the recession and is more about the state of large pharma, where jobs are being relocated out of the UK for either pipeline issues or the need to reduce costs, with cheaper worksforces in Asia. Derek Lowe’s blog is very informative about this issue:

    My gut feel is there will always be jobs for good people, its just that everyone is going to have to be a bit patient with the job market for the next few months. We may also see more fixed-term opportunities in industry companies reduce their redundancy liability…

    Will watch your blog with interest.

  3. Good to hear from you, Caroline! I’ll have a look at Derek Lowe’s blog.

    However in spite of the overall gloom in the pharma industry and the big shake out of jobs last year, GSK are still recruiting grads (in fact they’ve just readvertised with us) and I did hear rumours that it might not be long before AZ have to do the odd bit of targeted recruitment.

    I think it’s going to be a very confused picture for a while to come, but scientific and engineering (and other postgrad) specialists may not be as badly hit as the thousands of undergrads looking for those jobs which accept any discipline.

    I’ll keep you posted!

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