Finding a new job could be easier than you thought this year

Despite ONS figures indicating a downturn in job vacancies, Startups 100 survey results indicate there are reasons to be optimistic about the labour market.

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The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) were marked by labour market pessimism, suggesting a poor state of hiring in the UK.

Between October to December 2023, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 49,000, down to a total 934,000. This represents a 5% decrease since July to September of 2023, with vacancies falling in 12 of the 18 industry sectors examined.

However, all hope is not lost for job-seekers. In contrast to the doom and gloom, an exclusive survey conducted by has found that 80% of businesses aim to expand their workforce in the coming year. For anyone seeking a new role in 2024, this could prove welcome news amid less positive headlines.

Reasons for job seeker optimism

According to the survey, the quieter period of hiring that the ONS data has captured at the end of 2023 could give way to a more positive state of affairs in the year to come.

Our survey, which covered 546 UK businesses aged between 0-10 years, revealed that 33% of these businesses plan to hire up to five new employees.

Moreover, 76% of micro-sized businesses (1-10 employees) intend to increase their workforce by 50% in the coming year. Similarly, 63% of businesses with 101-500 employees plan to double their workforce in the year ahead.

Looking at the bigger picture

The ONS data paints a story of a stalling labour market as last year closed out. Vacancies continued to fall for the 18th consecutive quarter. This would mean the longest consecutive run of quarterly falls ever recorded. That said, there are still more UK job vacancies in the most recent quarter captured in the ONS survey than in the pre-pandemic period.

Experts claim the slowdown is owed to a general economic belt tightening and challenging business landscape, explained by rising inflation, the Ukraine war, and the cost-of-living crisis.

The industry sectors showing the largest quarterly decreases in the number of vacancies were wholesale and retail trade, which fell by 13,000 and 9,000 vacancies respectively.

“While the latest data is showing a decline in vacancies, there are a number of factors which need to be considered when analysing the state of the UK’s labour market,” warns Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

“First and foremost, the number of jobs noted by the end of last year is still higher than the levels recorded between 2005 and 2020, meaning that things remain relatively stable for now.”

ONS challenge of data capture

ONS data also needs to be approached carefully, as reduced survey participation rates have impaired how accurately results reflect the state of the labour market. The participation crisis hit a peak in October, when the ONS had to suspend its monthly publication of the LFS.

“There are still prevailing questions around the statistics which means this information shouldn’t be used as a standalone indicator of the jobs market,” notes Bowers.

Due to lowered participation, the ONS suggested alternative estimates of this month’s LFS, which indicated that the employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 actually increased marginally.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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