Vacancies and jobs in the UK: August 2021

Estimates of the number of vacancies and jobs for the UK.

Nid hwn yw'r datganiad diweddaraf. Gweld y datganiad diweddaraf

17 August 2021

The effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our capacity means we have reviewed the existing labour market releases and will be suspending some publications.

This will protect the delivery and quality of our remaining labour market outputs as well as ensuring we can respond to new demands as a direct result of coronavirus. More details about the impact on labour market outputs can be found in our statement.

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Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 August 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
14 September 2021

2. Main points

  • In May to July 2021, there were an estimated 953,000 job vacancies, a record high, having grown by 43.8% (290,000) compared with the previous quarter.

  • Strong quarterly growth was reflected across a number of industries, with 10 of the 18 industry sections reaching or equalling record levels of vacancies in May to July 2021.

  • The number of job vacancies in May to July 2021 was 21.4% (168,000) above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (January to March 2020), with only one industry, wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles, remaining below its pre-pandemic level.

  • All business size bands showed higher vacancy numbers on the quarter, and all size bands have now surpassed their pre-pandemic level.

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3. Vacancies for May to July 2021

In May to July 2021, the estimated number of vacancies reached its highest level since records began in 2001, with all industries growing on the quarter. In the same period there were 3.2 vacancies for every 100 employee jobs, also a record high.

The headline vacancy estimates are based on three-month averages that naturally involve some time lag. Insights into trends in July 2021 are provided by two experimental sources, single-month vacancy estimates (see Strengths and limitations), in Dataset X06 , and Adzuna online job advert estimates. Growth in the latest quarter has been seen in these experimental datasets and both continue to surpass their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels in July 2021, with the single-month vacancy estimates exceeding 1,000,000 for the first time.

Quarterly growth was seen across all industries. The fastest rate of growth was seen in arts, entertainment and recreation, which grew by 267.1% (23,000). The largest increase in levels was seen in accommodation and food service activities, which grew by 73,000 (163.7%). Both industries are likely to have seen demand for labour increase, as coronavirus restrictions eased through the spring into the summer. In 10 of the 18 industries, the number of vacancies equalled or reached record-high levels in May to July 2021.  

Job vacancies in May to July 2021 continued to surpass their pre-pandemic January to March 2020 level, with vacancies 21.4% (168,000) above their pre-pandemic level.

The rate of recovery has continued to vary, though now only one industry (wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles) remains below its January to March 2020 level. The 4.1% fall for this industry over the period as a whole is driven primarily by the retail subsector, which remains 10,000 vacancies below its pre-pandemic level of 85,000. However, this subsector has seen strong growth recently, with 26,000 vacancies being added over the last quarter, reaching a level of 75,000 in May to July 2021.

Accommodation and food service activities is the industry that has surpassed its pre-pandemic peak by the largest margin, now 33,000 (39.1%) above its January to March 2020 level. Human health and social work has also seen strong growth since the onset of the pandemic, with the May to July 2021 level surpassing the pre-pandemic peak by 26,000 (19.1%).

In May to July 2021, all size bands saw strong growth on the quarter. Businesses with 2,500 or more employees saw their vacancies surpass their pre-pandemic level for the first time, with all size bands now reaching this milestone.

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4. Jobs, vacancies and wider labour market measures

Our estimated number of workforce jobs is for March 2021 (next updated September 2021), and shows a fall of 1.1 million compared with pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic December 2019. Over the same period, vacancies dropped by 182,000, giving a combined fall in labour demand of a little under 1.3 million. Since March 2021, vacancies have increased by 332,000.

Given the fall in labour demand, the number of people in work has naturally dropped since the onset of the pandemic, as reported in our Labour Force Survey employment estimates, and by HM Revenue and Customs on the number of payrolled employees.

However, the most recent estimates show signs of recovery, with a quarterly increase in the employment rate alongside a small increase in the numbers of payrolled employees.

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5. Vacancies and jobs data

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 17 August 2021
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 15 June 2021
Estimates of jobs by type of job (including employee jobs, self-employment jobs, HM Forces and government-supported trainees).

Workforce jobs by industry
Dataset JOBS02 | Released 15 June 2021
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

X06: Single month vacancies estimates (not designated as National Statistics)
Dataset X06 | Released 17 August 2021
Single Month Vacancy Survey estimates, not seasonally adjusted

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6. Glossary


Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking recruits from outside their business or organisation. The estimates are based on the Vacancy Survey; this is a survey of employers designed to provide estimates of the stock of vacancies across the economy, excluding agriculture, forestry and fishing (a small sector for which the collection of estimates would not be practical).


A job is an activity performed for an employer or customer by a worker in exchange for payment, usually in cash, or in kind, or both. The number of jobs is not the same as the number of people in employment. This is because a person can have more than one job. The number of jobs is the sum of employee jobs from employer surveys, self- employment jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), those in HM Forces and government-supported trainees. The number of people in employment is measured by the LFS; these estimates are available in our Employment in the UK release.

A more detailed glossary is available.

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7. Measuring the data


For more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see the article published on 6 May 2020, which details some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.

An article, published on 11 December 2020, compares our labour market data sources and discusses some of the main differences.

Please be aware that, as a result of ongoing developments to the weighting of Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates during the pandemic, for our September 2021 publication we intend to revise the LFS-based components of workforce jobs back to the beginning of 2020.

For more information on the changes to LFS weighting methodology through the pandemic please see our article on the LFS Survey weighting methodology.

Impact on production of vacancy and workforce job estimates

Because of social distancing measures leading to the temporary closure of businesses across the UK, there have been some difficulties in collecting data using the Vacancy Survey and the Short-Term Employment Surveys.

Survey response rates were lower than is typical. To protect the quality of our output, we have used alternative sources where possible to inform data. We have used Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) section-level indications from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS), as well as survey contributor-level comments provided to us over the telephone or electronically, as a guide on whether businesses are operational and likely, or not, to be actively recruiting and to confirm employment figures.


The data in this bulletin come from surveys of businesses. It is not feasible to survey every business in the UK, so these statistics are estimates based on samples, not precise figures.


Estimates of vacancies are obtained from the Vacancy Survey, a survey of employers. Adzuna Online job advert  estimates are also published as part of the Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators release.


Estimates of jobs are compiled from a number of sources, including Short-Term Employment Surveys (STES), the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS). STES is a group of surveys that collect employment and turnover information from private sector businesses. In December of each year, the jobs estimates are "benchmarked" to the latest estimates from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES).

The STES estimates are drawn for a specified date early in the last month of each calendar quarter. The March 2020 data were from 13 March 2020 before the start of coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing measures.

For more information on how jobs data are measured, please see the Measuring the data section in our previous release 

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Vacancy Survey QMI and Workforce jobs QMI.

Sampling variability

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level expressed as a coefficient of variation, giving a 95% confidence interval for estimates of approximately plus or minus 20,000. 

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level, for a typical industrial sector is around plus or minus 6% of that level.

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8. Strengths and limitations

Information on the strengths and limitations of the data in this bulletin are available in our previous release.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Tom Evans
Ffôn: +44 1633 651833