The job market for new graduates in the United Kingdom is facing one of its most challenging periods in recent years, as annual graduate roles have plummeted by over 32 percent in September 2023 compared to the previous year, according to the UK Job Market Report by leading job search engine Adzuna.
September’s data revealed a concerning decline in job vacancies and salaries, with a sharp drop in the number of available positions, echoing the struggles of a labor market grappling with uncertainty.
In the wake of the ongoing pandemic and economic volatility, graduates are encountering limited opportunities and reduced earning potential, with vacancies down -1.57 percent compared to August and advertised salaries down -1.6 percent.
The report illustrates that September witnessed 23,264 advertised job vacancies for graduates, marking a -0.92 percent decrease compared to August, and a significant drop from the 34,277 openings available one year ago.
This comes in the context of diminishing vacancies across various industries, with three-quarters of the sectors analysed by Adzuna’s data reporting a slowdown in hiring, signifying a potential cooling of the labour market.
Job vacancies declined by -1.57%
Across all sectors, the United Kingdom’s job vacancies declined by -1.57 percent in September, amounting to 1,022,833 openings. This represents the third consecutive monthly decrease, yet vacancies are down by just -6.6 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. The number of jobseekers per vacancy also increased, with 1.51 jobseekers per vacancy in September, up from 1.47 in August, reflecting heightened competition for available roles.
In response to the intensifying competition for job positions, an increasing number of employers chose not to disclose salary information. Only 47.8 percent of job advertisements included salary details in September, marking the lowest point since Adzuna began keeping records in April 2016. Advertised salaries dropped to £37,093 in September, down -1.6 percent from August. Nevertheless, when viewed on a year-on-year basis, average wages remained +1.7 percent higher than they were in September 2022, standing at £36,473.
Teaching roles dominate
Among the 29 sectors in Adzuna’s job database, 23 experienced month-on-month drops in vacancies in September, with the energy sector and trade and construction taking the hardest hits. Energy sector vacancies fell by -7 percent month-on-month, while trade and construction suffered a -6.32 percent decline.
Despite a consistent decline in teaching vacancies since June, the sector remains the largest recruitment sector, with nearly 110,000 positions advertised in September. Compared to the previous year, there were 30 percent more teaching roles available, with salaries rising by +9.04 percent in comparison to 2022. This marks the third highest annual salary increase, behind social work (+10.7%) and property jobs (+9.25%).
In fact, teaching vacancies in September outnumbered all the vacancies in several other sectors, including consultancy, creative and design, domestic help and cleaning, energy, oil and gas, HR and recruitment, legal, maintenance, manufacturing, property, and travel sectors combined.
The hospitality and travel sectors are making a comeback, with travel experiencing the greatest month-on-month increase in vacancies at +11.1 percent, totalling 4,941 advertised positions in September. Travel vacancies have surged +22 percent over the past six months. Meanwhile, hospitality vacancies were up +5.3 percent in September and +16 percent since spring, offering 81,855 advertised positions.
The time to fill vacancies has reached its lowest point in 2023, taking an average of 34.6 days, though this varies across sectors. Administrative roles continue to be the quickest to fill at 31 days, while energy, oil and gas roles are the slowest at 41 days.
Fluctuations in salaries
Over 65 percent of sectors saw wages decrease in September, a significant increase from the previous month’s 50 percent. The social work sector experienced the largest decline, with salaries down -3.21 percent in August, reaching £32,192.
However, some sectors saw salary increases, such as energy roles (+1.3% in August), indicating a possible shift toward higher-skilled roles within this sector. Manufacturing, despite a significant yearly drop in vacancies (-29%), experienced an +8.65 percent yearly increase in salaries. Additionally, despite the drop in advertised graduate roles, advertised salaries increased by +1.48 percent compared to the previous year.
Legal jobs offered the highest average salaries in September, increasing by +1 percent to £53,329, surpassing IT salaries for the first time this year. The IT sector saw a -2.65 percent decrease in advertised salaries, marking a -9.15 percent decrease year-on-year. Despite a one-third drop in IT vacancies since 2022, average IT salaries remain significantly higher than the UK average, standing at £52,218.
Salaries continue to fall slightly
Salary declines were observed in all regions of the UK in September, albeit to varying degrees. The West Midlands witnessed the most substantial decline, with salaries decreasing by -2.05 percent month-on-month. In contrast, the South West of England experienced the smallest declines, with salaries down by -0.95 percent.
Nonetheless, year-on-year salaries in all regions, except London, showed an average increase of +3.9 percent.
Where are the top places to find work?
Cambridge remains one of the best cities to find a job, with only 0.26 jobseekers per vacancy and 8,825 advertised positions available, slightly increasing from August. Guildford and Exeter follow, with 0.38 and 0.4 jobseekers per vacancy, respectively.
Bradford maintains its position as the most challenging city to find a job, with 5.92 jobseekers per vacancy and just over 3,000 advertised roles, ranking ahead of Rochdale (3.86) and Middlesbrough (3.63).
Warehouse roles in high demand
Warehouse work remains the most sought-after job for the fourth consecutive month, followed by lorry driving jobs and administrative assistant roles.
Andrew Hunter, co-founder at Adzuna, commented on the report, saying, “September traditionally sees a surge in job market activity, but the figures we’re seeing this year could signal a cooling off of the job market, which had shown signs of resilience earlier in the year. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The year-on-year hiring gap has narrowed to its smallest in 2023.
“This suggests that despite the monthly setbacks, the annual outlook presents a more positive picture. The time to fill roles has also decreased, indicating that while competition is higher, employers are making quicker decisions. It’s a mixed bag, but one that warrants cautious optimism.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.