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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Joanna Partridge

May worst month for Covid-19 impact on UK job market, ONS figures show

Customers outside London pub
The Crown Tavern pub in Clerkenwell, London, which reopened on 4 July. Job vacancies in wholesale and retail, catering and hospitality and education, began to pick up slightly in June. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

The negative impact of the coronavirus lockdown on Britain’s jobs market appears to have been greatest in May before a partial recovery in June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Both demand for and supply of labour were affected by lockdown restrictions, and the temporary closure of non-essential businesses caused demand for labour to fall, leading to fewer job vacancies, the ONS found, by studying job advert data from the online job search engine Adzuna.

The ONS said: “Experimental online job adverts data imply that the worst impact of the pandemic on labour demand was experienced in May and some sectors increased hiring in June 2020.”

Retail and wholesale and catering and hospitality were among the sectors that saw the greatest falls in online job adverts. The number of vacancies in the wholesale and retail sector reached its lowest level on record, totalling just 67,000 in the three months from March to May.

Hiring was particularly disrupted in industries that rely on close interaction between people, and where businesses could not take advantage of technology in order to continue trading during lockdown, such as accommodation and food service.

Vacancies in the accommodation and food services sector saw the largest percentage decrease, with a fall of 71%.


Other industries badly affected by the coronavirus restrictions, according to the data, included entertainment and recreation and construction, which suffered large falls in job vacancies.

The UK began to ease some coronavirus restrictions in May, when garden centres in England were allowed to reopen, and several nationwide restaurant chains gradually began to offer takeaway or drive-through services to customers, while many more retailers reopened their doors in June and sectors including hospitality began trading again from early July.

The easing of restrictions “contributed to increasing hiring activities in some categories”, which the ONS interpreted as “early signs of optimism” that companies were beginning to look for new staff. Vacancies in wholesale and retail, catering and hospitality and education began to pick up slightly in June.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s latest job recovery tracker found that demand grew for bar and serving staff in the final week of June as pubs and restaurants in England prepared to reopen.

However, by late June, the overall index of vacancies still remained at lower level than before the pandemic.

Some industries, such as the health sector, continued to hire staff during the pandemic, and the ONS found that the low decrease in vacancies in the human health and social work sector was partly associated with treatment of Covid-19 patients.

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