New research highlights the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on recruitment, with the number of professional vacancies falling significantly by a third when analysing year-on-year figures.

According to new research by APSCo, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, professional vacancies in the UK were particularly hit over the last year due the impact of the pandemic.

In particular, there was a one-third reduction in figures year-on-year (33 per cent) for professional vacancies.

A similar impact was seen in London where data shows that professional vacancies based there had fallen by 32.3 per cent. In addition, it seems that this could continue to be a trend post-COVID as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to roll out a ‘levelling up agenda’. The research warns that this could mean a higher share of professional vacancies move out of London, with greater distribution around the UK instead.

When analysing different industries, the data shows that industries such as marketing and sales were affected massively by COVID with number of professional vacancies falling by 40 and 39 per cent respectively.

Conversely, there were some industries that fared well in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Roles within IT actually saw a rise in Q4 of 2020, with the professional vacancy numbers rising by almost 10 per cent (9.9 per cent) in comparison to the same time period in 2019.

Similarly, vacancies within healthcare also fared well as hiring across life sciences increased by 2.7 per cent over the last year. Overall, the healthcare sector saw a smaller impact in comparison to other sectors, due to the need for front-line workers.

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo comments:

As we entered 2020, many economic experts had last year firmly positioned as the year which would be dominated by Brexit.

No one could have predicted that as the year drew to a close, we were not only still battling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but were also wondering right until the 11th hour whether a Brexit deal would be struck.

And as a result of the huge challenges that the coronavirus has had on the professional recruitment market, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see that vacancies have reduced heavily throughout the UK when compared to 2019.

Despite this, however, it is by no means all doom and gloom. While some sectors have been hit particularly hard by national and local lockdowns – most notably consumer goods and services, for example – others such as health and life sciences have remained resilient and reported strong growth.

As 2020 drew to a close amid stricter Tier 4 restrictions for much of the country, it remains to be seen how this will affect future professional recruitment activity.

However, we are cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us and that the mass vaccination programme will help some sense of normality return towards the middle of 2021.