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.]