Vacancies and jobs in the UK: March 2020

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

This is an accredited national statistic.

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Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 March 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
21 April 2020

1. Other pages in this release

Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:

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2. Main points

  • There were an estimated 817,000 vacancies in the UK for December 2019 to February 2020; this is 19,000 more than the previous quarter but 30,000 fewer than a year earlier.

  • This is the second three-monthly increase in vacancies since November 2018 to January 2019, when it was a record high of 861,000.

  • For December 2019, there were an estimated 35.83 million jobs in the UK; this is an increase of 67,000 jobs compared with September 2019 and an increase of 541,000 jobs when compared with the same period the previous year.

  • The increase of 67,000 jobs was driven by the self-employed jobs, which increased by 74,000 when compared with September 2019. The employee jobs fell by 13,000 over the same period.


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.

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3. Vacancies for December 2019 to February 2020

The estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell sharply during the recession of 2008 to 2009. Since 2012, it has generally increased, reaching a record high of 861,000 in November 2018 to January 2019. For December 2019 to February 2020, there were an estimated 817,000 vacancies in the UK; this is 19,000 more than for the previous quarter (September to November 2019) but 30,000 fewer than for the previous year.

For December 2019 to February 2020, it is estimated that:

  • there were 817,000 vacancies in the UK; this is 19,000 more than for the three months to November 2019 but 30,000 fewer than for the previous year (this is the ninth consecutive annual fall)

  • the sectors showing the largest annual falls were “information and communication” falling by 9,000; and “transport and storage” and “other service activities”, both falling by 7,000 compared with a year earlier

  • there were 136,000 vacancies in the human health and social work activities sector (making it the largest sector for the ninth consecutive period), an increase of 3,000 compared with a year earlier; this accounted for 16.6% of all vacancies in the UK

  • the sectors showing the largest quarterly increases were “arts, entertainment and recreation” increasing by 7,000 and “manufacturing” increasing by 5,000 compared to the three months to November 2019

  • there were 2.7 job vacancies per 100 employee jobs across the economy as a whole

  • the sector showing the highest vacancy rate was “accommodation and food service activities”, with 4.0 vacancies per 100 employee jobs

  • the sector showing the lowest vacancy rate was “water supply, sewerage, waste and remediation activities” at 1.6 job vacancies per 100 employee jobs

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4. Jobs for December 2019

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. Estimates for the number of people in employment are available in Employment in the UK.

It is estimated that:

  • the number of jobs has been generally increasing since 2013

  • there were, a record high, 35.83 million jobs in the UK in December 2019; this is 67,000 more than September 2019 and 541,000 higher than December 2018

  • the largest sector with an estimated 4.97 million jobs was the “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles” sector in December 2019; this represents 13.9% of total jobs in December 2019

  • the next largest sector was “human health and social work”, with an estimated 4.48 million jobs in December 2019

  • several sectors were at a record high in December 2019, including “education” (2.98 million jobs), “accommodation and food service activities” (2.51 million jobs), “information and communication” (1.54 million jobs), and “other service activities” (1.01 million jobs)

The sectors showing the largest estimated annual increase in jobs were “human health and social work” (up 117,000 on the year) and “professional, scientific and technical” (up 83,000 on the year).

There were two sectors showing annual decreases in jobs, these were “construction” (down 34,000 on the year) and “wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles” (down 33,000 on the year).

The sector showing the largest estimated quarterly increase in jobs was “construction”. Total construction jobs increased by 44,000, of this self-employed jobs increased by 31,000 and employee jobs increased by 14,000.

There were several sectors showing estimated quarterly decreases in jobs. The largest sectors were “professional, scientific and technical activities” (down 22,000 on the quarter) and “administrative and support service activities” (down 19,000 on the quarter).

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5. Vacancies and jobs data

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 17 March 2020
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 17 March 2020
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 17 March 2020
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

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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 businesses 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

After EU withdrawal

As the UK leaves the EU, it is important that our statistics continue to be of high quality and are internationally comparable. During the transition period, those UK statistics that align with EU practice and rules will continue to do so in the same way as before 31 January 2020.

After the transition period, we will continue to produce our labour market statistics in line with the UK Statistics Authority’s (UKSA’s) Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) definitions and agreed international statistical guidance.

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).

Estimates of vacancies are obtained from the Vacancy Survey, a survey of employers.

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

Upcoming changes

The next vacancies and jobs bulletin (21 April 2020) will include revisions to estimates of vacancies back to the start of the series in 2001. Revisions will result from a review of the seasonal adjustment parameters and from taking on board late and corrected information from contributors to the Vacancy Survey. This is an annual process, as outlined in the Vacancy survey QMI.

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8. Strengths and limitations

Accuracy of the statistics: estimating and reporting uncertainty

The figures in this bulletin mainly come from surveys of businesses, which gather information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The samples are designed to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints. Results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.

As the number of people available in the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates that we can make from that sample size gets larger. Estimates for small groups (for example, vacancies in the construction industry), which are based on small subsets of the Vacancy Survey sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups (for example, total vacancies in the UK).

In general, short-term changes in the growth rates reported in this bulletin are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.

Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics.

Sampling variability information for jobs is available in Table 1 in this bulletin and in dataset JOBS07: Workforce jobs sampling variability.

The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Laura Caldwell
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455955