Jobseekers face 31% fall in Christmas roles and biggest graduate job slump since 2008

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3 min read
A Yodel delivery van vehicle parked outside a shop store in Truro City centre in Cornwall. (Photo by: Gordon Scammell/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Yodel is one of few companies going on a hiring spree, with tighter restrictions hitting retail and hospitality vacancies. Photo: Gordon Scammell/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Experts are warning a recovery in hiring in Britain has begun to stall amid tighter lockdown restrictions, as new figures show a slump in Christmas and graduate vacancies.

Industry data suggests seasonal job ads are 31% lower than a year ago, and graduate vacancies and internships have suffered their biggest decline in at least a decade.

Official figures earlier this week had painted a more promising picture of rising vacancies, as the economy eased out of the first nationwide lockdown. Job ads between August and October were up 186,000 on the record lows seen between April and June, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures on Tuesday.

But a flurry of other new data underlines the ongoing squeeze on recruitment, just as redundancies have hit a record high and jobseeker numbers are likely to continue to mount.

Figures from job site Indeed show UK postings were down 44% year-on-year, unchanged on the previous week. “Lower wage jobs are bearing the brunt as tighter restrictions hit in-person services,” warned Indeed economist Jack Kennedy in a blogpost.

“The slow recovery in job postings appears to have stalled for now, with most parts of the UK under tight restrictions as England went into its second national lockdown last week and Scotland and Northern Ireland remain locked down.”

READ MORE: Christmas hiring spree sees '1,181% spike' in UK job postings

Data from another job site, Adzuna, suggests even short-term demand around the festive season will provide less of a boon for struggling jobseekers than in previous years.

Christmas roles on the site are down 31% year-on-year to just below 14,000, with only 767 retail roles and 461 sales roles. Retail makes up just 6% of available roles, down from 17% two years ago.

Graduates also face a challenging labour market. Graduate recruitment in 2020 has slid by 12% year-on-year, the biggest decline since the global financial crisis in 2008-9, according to the Institute for Student Employers (ISE).

Retail and fast-moving consumer goods have cut graduate hiring most starkly, with a 45% decline.

Internships and placements have slumped by 29% and 25% respectively, the biggest drop since the ISE began collecting the data in 2010. ISE figures also lay bare the rising competition for roles, with 14% more applications for graduate jobs and 9% more for internships and placements.

But the picture is not entirely gloomy. “Delivery driver roles are plentiful, boosted by the Christmas online shopping boom. There is also strong demand for online tutors,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “Christmas cover in health and social care also remains critical.”

He added: “Jobseekers seeking festive work this Christmas need to think creatively to secure a role.”

READ MORE: Parcel carrier Yodel announces 2,950 new UK jobs in time for Christmas

Adzuna figures show recruitment booming at delivery giants Yodel (1,647 jobs), Royal Mail (RMG.L) (1,524 jobs) and Hermes (353 jobs). Amazon (AMZN) and Tesco (TSCO.L) have also announced mass hiring drives.

Indeed data shows a similar rise in loading, stocking, and other logistics roles in the distribution sector, as well as certain healthcare roles such as medical technicians and physicians.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE, noted graduate recruitment had not collapsed despite the decline, and said school and college leaver recruitment was holding up. Public sector and charity members of the ISE had even increased hiring, up 4% year-on-year.

But he said he was alarmed by falling internships and placements, noting around half of those on placements were typically hired by ISE members. “We must continue to offer opportunities so young people can develop and experience work, even if it is from students’ kitchen tables.”

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