ONS labour market statistics: job vacancies drop to 27-month low ahead of election

Filed under Press release

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The UK jobs market remained stable in the three months to October despite political deadlock and the announcement of the December election. The employment rate grew slightly by 0.4% compared with the same period last year and total employment now stands at 76.2%, 0.4% higher than last year, according to new figures from the ONS. The unemployment rate stands at 3.8%, 0.3% lower than the same period last year. 

The number of job vacancies continued to fall to 794,000, 20,000 fewer than the previous three months and 59,000 fewer than the same period last year. This month the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s Report on Jobs showed that employers were delaying or cancelling hiring plans amid continued uncertainty. 

Neil Carberry, CEO at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said:

“Today’s figures show why the government needs to be focused on making great work happen. Uncertainty before the election took its toll, with the gentle slowdown we have seen in the jobs market over the past few months continuing, led by a tenth successive month of falling vacancies. Taking a longer-term view, we should remember that overall performance is strong. And a lot has changed since this data was collected. It remains to be seen if the clarity the election result has delivered will translate into businesses launching the ambitious hiring plans they have been cautiously putting on hold, as our data has shown for many months. 
“The government shouldn’t wait for confirmation of this to get on with the task of supporting businesses to grow. Keeping the campaign trail promise to review IR35 changes swiftly would be a great start – the reform should not go ahead until it can be effectively delivered and that will not be in 2020. A sensible plan that avoids a no-deal Brexit must be delivered in 2020 with long-term trading arrangements in place for the UK’s world leading services sector, as well as manufacturing. 
“The biggest challenge to growth is continuing skills shortages. Productivity hinges on government’s ability to address this. One huge opportunity is to open up the apprenticeship levy to the millions of people who choose flexible work.  For the sick to be treated, for homes to be built, and for food to be produced, the UK also needs an immigration system that meets employers’ needs for skills at all pay-levels.”



Notes to editors:  


  1. The REC Report on Jobs in December shows that demand for staff has declined for nine consecutive months.
  2. The REC JobsOutlook in November showed employer confidence in the economy hit its lowest point since mid-2016.
  3. REC’s recommendations to the new government can be found in full in our manifesto ‘Making Great Work Happen’ here.

For more information, contact the REC Press Office on 020 7009 2157, 020 7009 2192 or pressoffice@rec.uk.com

Click here to view all REC press releases.


The REC is the voice of the recruitment industry, speaking up for great recruiters. We drive standards and empower recruitment businesses to build better futures for their candidates and themselves. We are champions of an industry which is fundamental to the strength of the UK economy. 


Find out more about the Recruitment & Employment Confederation at www.rec.uk.com

Back to top
Award winning services AEA award logoAssociation Excellence Awards 2017MemCom 2017 Awards