There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact upon the recruitment industry. Whilst the logistics, legal, medical and IT sectors for example, are maintaining demand, other sectors such as hospitality, aviation, and high street retailers have suffered.

The UK unemployment rate for July to September 2020 averaged  4.8%, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), an increase from 3.9% a year earlier.  This is partly due to a rise in redundancies and self-employed people struggling to secure work, but there has also been a large slump in companies hiring.

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme and more recently, the Job Support Scheme have helped protect jobs. However, in preparation for the end of the CJRS and before the Job Support Scheme announcement, many companies had already cut jobs. According to figures released by the ONS, July to September saw a record rise in the number of redundancies of 181,000.

Most predictions suggest that unemployment will continue to rise for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.  The Bank of England recently forecasted that unemployment is likely to peak at about 7.7% in Spring 2021.

One of the hardest-hit groups has been young people. Figures show that 174,000 fewer 16- to 24-year-olds were employed in July to September, compared to the previous three months. (BBC)  

Young people tend to work in sectors which have been hardest hit, hospitality, retail and tourism which has been a major factor.  However, I’m also seeing fewer opportunities across the board.  The availability of entry level or junior roles, apprenticeships and graduate opportunities have seen a dramatic decline.  General uncertainty, the transition to home working along with the challenges of virtual interviews have all played their part.  There will also be an element of ‘we can do without’ these roles with many companies looking to defer hiring at the more junior levels.

This year we have seen a significant shift from a candidate led market to an employer led market. According to official figures, when it comes to job seekers – supply outweighs demand.  This would suggest that employers are finding it easier to fill vacancies with ideal candidates, but this hasn’t always been the case.

From my own experience within the accounting and legal industry, recruitment came to an almost standstill for a large part of 2020. However, certain business areas are showing earlier signs of recovery with recruitment ramping up in the areas of tax, insolvency and litigation.  This seems to be an industry trend, thus competition remains high as firms work to compete for the same candidates.  This, coupled with candidates being more hesitant about career changes due to Covid-19 uncertainty means resourcing is challenging.

For the most part, application numbers have increased.  This increase is an outcome of the unfortunate rising unemployment levels and candidates taking a more scattergun approach when applying for roles.  More employers are embracing flexible and remote working so the geographical spread of candidates nationally and even internationally has also increased.

2020 has been a tough year, but the Covid-19 pandemic will pass. Recruitment doesn’t have to grind to a halt until the crisis passes. When the outbreak ends, employers will have less time to hire the right candidates and position themselves for the next phase.  As we move into 2021, we will also start to see the usual movement in the market as candidates consider new opportunities and employers look forward and push on with business growth.

From myself and all at ETL Resourcing, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!


Jenny Jones is Director of ETL Resourcing, she has worked in recruitment with various high-profile companies for over 10 years. ETL Resourcing is a dedicated talent acquisition partner for ETL Global partners and many businesses around the UK.

If you are interested in developing the recruitment and retention strategies for your business or improving your employer brand, contact Jenny Jones, Director of ETL Resourcing.

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