May worst month for Covid-19 impact on UK job market, ONS figures show

Labour demand and supply hit by lockdown, particularly in retail and hospitality

The negative impact of the coronavirus lockdown on Britain’s jobs market appears to have been greatest in May before a partial recovery in June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Both demand for and supply of labour were affected by lockdown restrictions, and the temporary closure of non-essential businesses caused demand for labour to fall, leading to fewer job vacancies, the ONS found, by studying job advert data from the online job search engine Adzuna.

The ONS said: “Experimental online job adverts data imply that the worst impact of the pandemic on labour demand was experienced in May and some sectors increased hiring in June 2020.”

Retail and wholesale and catering and hospitality were among the sectors that saw the greatest falls in online job adverts. The number of vacancies in the wholesale and retail sector reached its lowest level on record, totalling just 67,000 in the three months from March to May.

Hiring was particularly disrupted in industries that rely on close interaction between people, and where businesses could not take advantage of technology in order to continue trading during lockdown, such as accommodation and food service.

Vacancies in the accommodation and food services sector saw the largest percentage decrease, with a fall of 71%.


Other industries badly affected by the coronavirus restrictions, according to the data, included entertainment and recreation and construction, which suffered large falls in job vacancies.

The UK began to ease some coronavirus restrictions in May, when garden centres in England were allowed to reopen, and several nationwide restaurant chains gradually began to offer takeaway or drive-through services to customers, while many more retailers reopened their doors in June and sectors including hospitality began trading again from early July.

The easing of restrictions “contributed to increasing hiring activities in some categories”, which the ONS interpreted as “early signs of optimism” that companies were beginning to look for new staff. Vacancies in wholesale and retail, catering and hospitality and education began to pick up slightly in June.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s latest job recovery tracker found that demand grew for bar and serving staff in the final week of June as pubs and restaurants in England prepared to reopen.

However, by late June, the overall index of vacancies still remained at lower level than before the pandemic.

Some industries, such as the health sector, continued to hire staff during the pandemic, and the ONS found that the low decrease in vacancies in the human health and social work sector was partly associated with treatment of Covid-19 patients.


Joanna Partridge

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
UK unemployment reaches four-year high in Covid-19 lockdown
Jobless rate rose to 5%, or 1.7 million people, in three months to the end of November

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

26, Jan, 2021 @10:57 AM

Article image
UK unemployment falls for first time in Covid-19 pandemic
Jobless rate drops to 5% in three months to January, representing 1.7 million people

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

23, Mar, 2021 @4:19 PM

Article image
Sparkling employment figures mask real picture of UK economy
Not only are most new jobs low-skill and low-wage, but the total number of ‘hidden jobless’ remains high

Larry Elliott

29, Oct, 2017 @11:27 AM

Article image
UK paid employment falls by almost 650,000 as Covid-19 crisis bites
ONS says number of workers on payroll fell 2.2% from March although rate of decline fell in June

Richard Partington

16, Jul, 2020 @7:23 AM

Article image
Risk of 'dole queue' future for young people after Covid-19 crisis
UK’s 800,000 school leavers and graduates need jobs and education offers amid turmoil, says thinktank

Larry Elliott Economics editor

05, May, 2020 @11:01 PM

Article image
UK economy poised to recover after Covid-19 second wave
Our latest snapshot of key economic indicators shows the deficit soaring but unemployment holding steady

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

31, Mar, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
UK employment falls for first time since aftermath of Brexit vote
ONS says number of people unemployed also dropped in the three months to September, by 59,000 to 1.425 million

Larry Elliott Economics editor

15, Nov, 2017 @10:29 AM

Article image
UK pay growth picks up as unemployment rate falls again
Living standards still face squeeze as earnings have failed to keep pace with rising inflation

Larry Elliott Economics editor

16, Aug, 2017 @3:48 PM

Article image
A million people may quit self-employment in Covid-hit UK – study
LSE survey finds trend towards more people working for themselves under threat

Larry Elliott Economics editor

10, Nov, 2020 @12:01 AM

Article image
Number of UK 'Neets' increases for second consecutive quarter
Proportion of young people not in education, employment or training jumps to 12%, but total is down over five years

Angela Monaghan

26, May, 2016 @2:04 PM