Figures recently released show a surprise growth in job vacancies with a steady acceleration in postings over Q1 – peaking at 134,000 jobs in March. The end of the quarter saw the largest month- on-month gain for a year with 12% growth. Vacancies remain significantly below peak but the current rise demonstrates a strong recovery in the job market shows in recent months. However, analysis of recruiter and jobseeker activity shows that excess capacity from 2010 has yet to be soaked up and competition for jobs, which today averages 21 applications per position, is high and has risen steadily since June 2010.

The Totaljobs Barometer provides one of the most comprehensive representations of supply and demand in the UK job market, and is broken down across 32 sectors. With around 3.6 million jobseekers visitors each month, today’s figures provide an indication of how UK recruitment is faring as the economy struggles for growth.

John Salt, a Director at commented on the figures: “We’re surprised at the pace of the recovery, but we have a lot of ground to make up before the balance tips back in favour of jobseekers. It is still an employer’s market, and competition for positions will remain high until jobs growth outstrips jobseeker demand.

“Our forecast for the second quarter is for a dip in activity due to Easter and the Royal Wedding, but we are confident that the recovery will continue and we can look forward to a period of solid growth. Our advice for jobseekers is to remain confident and not be daunted by the competition.”

Those that fell the furthest are bouncing back the fastest

Sector comparisons reveal that the public sector and graduate job markets are showing the largest increase in job postings compared to a year ago, up 44% and 42% respectively, from a low base, as recruitment freezes came to an end. Manufacturing (job postings up 28%) has had a healthy quarter as a result of a relatively weak pound, which has boosted exports. IT (24%) also experienced significant job recovery year-on-year, possible proof that the private sector is investing for the future. The number of jobs in accountancy (21%), customer services (20%) and construction (17%) also rose significantly over the last three months to April.

The supply of jobs across the country is overall up 5% on last year and a fifth on last quarter (19%), with the strongest year-on-year recoveries seen in Scotland, up a third (30%), Yorkshire (19%) and the East Midlands (20%). The highest volume of jobs remains concentrated in London and the South East, which together accounted for almost half of all jobs in the country.

Jobseekers fighting to be noticed

Despite an increase in the supply of jobs, competition for each post continues to increase as those still looking are joined by new jobseekers encouraged by the upturn in opportunities. The last quarter has seen the average number of applications per job rise to 21, a 27% increase year-on-year, with regions such as the South East (31) and London (22) seeing the stiffest competition. As a result of public sector redundancy programmes, areas of traditionally low competition have seen the number of applicants per job rise significantly: the North West (20 applications per job) and North East (19 applications per job) have seen increases in competition of 64% and 39% since last year. Other areas, despite a relatively low number of jobs are seeing far less competition for each post. For instance, job seekers in East Anglia will be one of eight or nine candidates, as opposed to over thirty in the neighbouring South East.

The situation is similarly varied across the sectors. Competition for frontline roles in social services, nursing and educations posts has risen by 97%, 65% and 60% respectively as the supply dries up, whereas for wider public sector and services roles competition has actually fallen by over a fifth (21%) year on year as recruitment freezes for these positions come to an end and natural churn restarts the market in these areas.
John Salt, Director at concludes:

“Flexibility is an essential element to succeeding in these tough times, and whilst the increase in supply of jobs is a welcome light at the end of the tunnel, job seekers must consider changing tack to chase the best opportunities. What we are seeing is a fundamental redistribution of jobs across the country and across the sectors. The reopening of public sector and graduate recruitment schemes is welcome news, but this is likely to present a one-off boost to the supply, rather than a sustainable source of growth.”