Vacancies and jobs in the UK: May 2021

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

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

18 May 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 the coronavirus. More details about the impact on labour market outputs can be found in our statement.

Email Tom Evans

Dyddiad y datganiad:
18 May 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
15 June 2021

2. Main points

  • The number of job vacancies in February 2021 to April 2021 remained almost 128,000 below its pre-pandemic level in January 2020 to March 2020, with the worst affected industries being arts, entertainment and recreation, and accommodation and food service activities.

  •  In February 2021 to April 2021, there were an estimated 657,000 job vacancies, which is a growth of 8.0% (48,400) compared with last quarter, with most industries displaying increases, most notably, accommodation and food service activities; this growth in the latest quarter was also seen in our experimental monthly vacancies data, as well as experimental Adzuna online vacancies data, both of which neared their pre-pandemic levels in April 2021.

  • The smallest companies, employing one to nine employees, had 8.9% fewer vacancies in February 2021 to April 2021 compared with the previous quarter and were the only size band displaying a decrease.

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3. Vacancies for February 2021 to April 2021

In February 2021 to April 2021, the estimated number of vacancies reached its highest level since January 2020 to March 2020 (which is a pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period), with growth picking up in the most recent quarterly estimates.

The headline vacancy estimates are based on three-month averages, which naturally involve some time lag. Insight into trends in April 2021 are provided by two experimental sources: single-month vacancy estimates (see Strengths and limitations), in Dataset x06, and Adzuna Online job advert estimates. Both of these sources displayed increased vacancies in early April 2021 reaching near pre-pandemic levels, supporting the acceleration in growth seen in the latest quarterly estimates.

Stronger quarterly growth was reflected in 14 out of the 18 industries. Among industries that saw a growth in vacancies on the quarter, the most notable was accommodation and food service activities, up 99.6%, indicating an industry reacting quickly to the easing of lockdown restrictions. The other notable increase on the quarter was electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, up 42.1%, because of ongoing recruitment, leading this industry to have the highest ratio of vacancies to employee jobs.

Despite the growth on the quarter, however, most industries have seen a fall in the number of vacancies since before the pandemic in January 2020 to March 2020. The largest falls have been seen in:

  • arts, entertainment and recreation, down 66.5%

  • accommodation and food service activities, down 46.9%

  • wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, down 38.0%

Through February 2021 to April 2021, vacancies in the smallest companies (employing one to nine employees) fell by 8.9% compared with the previous quarter, while all other size bands continued to add vacancies. This also partly explains the difference seen between Office for National Statistics (ONS) Vacancy Survey estimates and experimental Adzuna online vacancy estimates, with smaller businesses being less likely to advertise jobs online.

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4. Jobs, vacancies and wider labour market measures

Our estimated number of workforce jobs is for December 2020 (next updated June 2021), which shows a fall of 1.2 million compared with the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in March 2020. Over the same period vacancies dropped by 195,000, giving a combined fall in labour demand of a little under 1.4 million. Since December 2020, vacancies have increased by 67,500.

Given the fall in labour demand, the number of people in work has naturally dropped, as reported on our Labour Force Survey employment estimates, and HM Revenue and Customs' number of payrolled employees. The additional excess labour supply resulted in the rate of unemployment increasing in the three months to December 2020, and once that increase in unemployment is considered, the rate of recovery in vacancies at the back end of 2020 is less positive.

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5. Vacancies and jobs data

Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 18 May 2021
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).

Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 23 March 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 23 March 2021
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 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.

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.

End of EU exit transition period

As the UK enters into a new Trade and Co-operation Agreement with the EU, the UK statistical system will continue to produce and publish our wide range of economic and social statistics and analysis. We are committed to continued alignment with the highest international statistical standards, enabling comparability both over time and internationally, and ensuring the general public, statistical users and decision- makers have the data they need to be informed.

As the shape of the UK's future statistical relationship with the EU becomes clearer over the coming period, the Office for National Statistics is making preparations to assume responsibilities that as part of our membership of the EU, and during the transition period, were delegated to the statistical office of the EU, Eurostat. This includes responsibilities relating to international comparability of economic statistics, deciding what international statistical guidance to apply in the UK context and to provide further scrutiny of our statistics and sector classification decisions.

In applying international statistical standards and best practice to UK economic statistics, we will draw on the technical advice of experts in the UK and internationally, and our work will be underpinned by the UK's well- established and robust framework for independent official statistics, set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Further information on our proposals will be made available later this year.

We will continue to produce our labour market statistics in line with the UK Statistics Authority's Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) definitions and agreed international statistical guidance.


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.


The monthly Vacancy Survey asks businesses for the number of external vacancies on a specified count date (always a Friday) that falls in the first eight days of each month.

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

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Tom Evans
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 651833