In November vacancy volumes were the lowest seen since May.

The research – from recruiter Robert Walters –  found national vacancies dropped minus 9 percent, ending a 10-month hiring spree.

At the start of this year (2021) there was an average of 32,377 new professional vacancies per month, a rise of plus 6 percent.

In the North the decline was minus 14 percent after the announcement that the HS2 Northern Powerhouse Rail will be downgraded.

Contractions were also felt in the South (-10%), London (-9%), and The Midlands (-8%).

Chris Poole – Managing Director of Robert Walters said:

“It is not surprising to hear that hiring slowed somewhat in November – where following the reopening of many sectors post lockdown, businesses made immediate staffing assessments based on people leaving or not returning, which in-turn led to a short-term spike in hiring that was always going to be temporary.

A Record Year Across England 

Nationally, professional vacancies are plus 110 percent up on 2020 and just as importantly plus 55 percent up when compared with 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.

June 2021 was the record month across the period with almost 3 times the number of vacancies compared to June 2020 (+263%), and over 60 percent more jobs when compared to June 2019.

Across all professional areas, London has consistently maintained approximately 41- 42 percent of the national vacancies.

Outside of London, the South is the largest region (South East, South West, and East of England) but the national share of professional vacancies has slipped from 28 percent in 2019 to 26 percent so far this year.

Instead, regional growth has been across the Midlands and the North. The Midland’ share of professional vacancies is up from 9.9 percent to 10.4 percent and in the North from 15.2 percent to 16.5 percent – making it the fastest growing part of the country.

Chris Poole said:

“The emergence of a new variant has yet again (created) a lingering air of uncertainty across businesses, particularly within the retail, leisure and hospitality space.”

Hiring from ‘The Big 4’ muted 

Meanwhile, vacancies within the accounting sector have reverted to 2019 levels, however the increase this year has been primarily from outside the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms.

To illustrate this; in 2019 approximately 77% of all accountancy vacancies come from the Big 4, whereas in 2021 (year to date) this has dropped to 69%.

Not surprisingly, the key hotspot role within the sector has been tax, with vacancies plus 30 percent up from 2019 – as the Government continues to discuss changing taxes to help plug rising costs around COVID and social care.

Financial Services makes moves outside of London

Financial Services roles continue to be at record levels – with vacancies up by plus 76 percent on average since 2020, and by plus 30 percent when compared with 2019 levels.

During the past year there has been a move of recruitment away from London to regions such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. In 2019 46 percent of vacancies in the sector were in the capital, and in 2021 this has fallen to 39 percent.

Unprecedented year for legal sector

The legal sector has also had a record year – where hiring has already surpassed pre-pandemic 2019 levels by plus 23 percent, with one month left in the year.

Within London; lawyers specialising in the following areas have been in particular demand.

London continued to account for a quarter of all legal vacancies – consistent for three years.


IT continues to be the area which bucks the COVID trend, where despite the slowdown in other areas during lockdown, recruitment continued in this area unabated with roles growing on average by more than 100 percent since 2020 and plus 62 percent when compared with 2019 levels.

October was a record month for vacancies across technology, media and telecoms companies – and September, October and November 2021 were all in the top three months in terms of total vacancies over the last three years.

IT support (+105%), consultants (+92%), cybersecurity (+77%), development (+74%), infrastructure (+54%), and analyst (+43%) roles have all been in high demand when compared to 2019 levels.


Click here to download a copy of The Robert Walters 2022 UK Salary Guide.






Feyaza Khan has been a journalist for more than 20 years in print and broadcast. Her special interests include neurodiversity in the workplace, tech, diversity, trauma and wellbeing.