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What does Covid-19 mean for recruitment?

NOTE: Due to the rapidly-changing nature of the covid-19 crisis, elements of this piece could be out of date quickly.

We are changing from a position of practically full employment in the UK to suddenly facing a potential jobs crisis. Figures from YouGov released on the 25th March reveal that out of nearly 3,000 people surveyed, 5% have lost their job as a result of the disruption that the virus has caused. How much the Chancellor’s announcement of support for “furloughed” workers has helped mitigate this effect is unclear at this stage.

For workers suddenly joining the ranks of the unemployed, the number of vacancies took the biggest hit we’ve seen since we started tracking the data in 2012 (we weren’t around for the financial crisis of 2008, so don’t have comparative figures). There are 694,280 jobs on currently, which is down from 898,103 in February, representing a 23% decline across the UK.

Looking at the number of jobs live in the week commencing 29th March compared to the live jobs at the start of the month as the crisis began to unfold, tells a similar story across all sectors. The travel sector and the hospitality sector – two of the sectors getting the most media coverage – have had declines of 18% and 57% respectively.

Despite the fact that our supermarket shelves look like locusts have hit them, and that many supermarkets have announced increased hires to deal with the demand, on the face of it the number of new vacancies is down. As our data only tracks unique job adverts, it’s possible that multiple vacancies are being advertised with the same advert, meaning that the closure of other retail stores is outweighing the growth in vacancies.

In fact the few sectors seeing growth in vacancies are healthcare and nursing (1% growth), and domestic help and cleaning roles (20% growth). Perhaps unsurprisingly as the crisis confines people to their homes, more in-home care and help is needed, and the healthcare sector calls for retirees to help.

SectorChange in vacancies W/C 29th March vs. W/C 1st March
Accounting & Finance Jobs-23.2%
Admin Jobs-37.4%
Charity & Voluntary Jobs-39.2%
Consultancy Jobs-36.4%
Creative & Design Jobs-41.3%
Customer Services Jobs-32.0%
Domestic help & Cleaning Jobs20.7%
Engineering Jobs-23.4%
Graduate Jobs-25.7%
Healthcare & Nursing Jobs1.0%
Hospitality & Catering-57.3%
HR & Recruitment Jobs-37.1%
IT Jobs-23.2%
Legal Jobs-15.8%
Logistics & Warehouse Jobs-9.0%
Maintenance Jobs-31.7%
Manufacturing Jobs-18.5%
Other/General Jobs-19.5%
Part time Jobs-37.0%
Property Jobs-31.2%
Retail Jobs-30.7%
Sales Jobs-36.4%
Scientific & QA Jobs-12.8%
Social work Jobs-5.6%
Teaching Jobs-0.9%
Trade & Construction Jobs-23.8%
Travel Jobs-18.3%

We’re watching these numbers closely and we may see changes, but the bottom line is that demand for staff is down significantly across all but a few sectors. 

So what does this mean for recruitment? 

There’s no escaping that it’s tough times, and we’re hearing already staff cuts in talent acquisition. In fact the drop in new HR & Recruitment jobs is at 37% so far. Our sympathies go out to anyone in that position. 

For most businesses it’s about survival. For many businesses, that will mean hiring freezes, and unfortunately redundancies. At times like this it becomes all about numbers, and so that new EVP and employer brand project may have to wait – particularly if you aren’t going to be employing anyone soon. 

If you are lucky enough to work in talent acquisition for a company that is still hiring “low skilled” workers, in one respect your job might have got a bit easier as you may get a lot more candidates. The only problem might be hiring them if they can’t leave the house for an interview. (If you’re increasing hiring but struggling to find candidates – get in touch!)

Being able to measure and prove effectiveness of any recruitment activity will be key in whatever happens. Showing where quality candidates have come from, how much it cost to hire, and being able to be flexible and not tied into long term contracts will all have an impact on how talent attraction can thrive in the future. 

If you have any questions about the data, please get in touch with me at