Construction Boom Splits the North-South Jobs Market Wide Open

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The North-South divide in the job market has widened dramatically as a construction boom in the South boosts jobs vacancies, according to the latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk.

Based on the number of jobseekers per vacancy, in October nine of the best ten cities to find a job were in the South of England, while nine of the worst ten cities were in the North. In October, it was 100 times more difficult to get a job in Salford, where there were 28 jobseekers per vacancy, than in Cambridge, where there were just 0.28 jobseekers per vacancy.

Overall the UK jobs market improved in October, with a marked increase in the number of advertised vacancies. There were 748,923 vacancies in total, a 9.2% increase from the previous year, and a 5.3% increase compared to September – the biggest monthly increase in over a year.

The growth in vacancies has been helped a dramatic increase in the trade and construction sector. The number of advertised construction vacancies has increased by almost a third (31%) compared to just six months ago. Construction accounts for over 6.3% of the UK’s economic output and its growth is reflective of a sustained economic pick-up.

But the construction boom has also widened the North-South divide, with many of the largest infrastructure projects – including Crossrail, which will require 14,000 workers at the peak of construction[1], and the improvement of London’s Northern Line – creating jobs in the South of England. In London, the number of construction vacancies was 95% higher year-on-year in October, whilst in the South East, advertised vacancies increased by 89%.

The boom in construction jobs is also driven by a surge in homebuilding, with growing demand for houses filtering through to the jobs market. New housing now accounts for 19.4% of total construction output, 5.1% higher than the lowest point in Q3 2009.[2] But while the demand for new housing is strongest in the South and South East, where property prices are highest, the majority of this work is likely to be focussed in these regions.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, explains: “The booming construction sector has driven a wedge in the national job market, and split the North-South divide wide open. Construction has been kick-started by a major infrastructure overhaul in the South, with vacancies focussed mainly in these regions. This stark divide is set to widen further when projects such as the Thames Tideway begin in the South.”

Of the 55,663 construction vacancies advertised in October, almost half fell in London (30%) and the South East (a further 18%). By contrast, only 6% of advertised vacancies were in the North West, and just 3% were in the North East.

Regional Breakdown in Construction Vacancies

Region

% of Construction Vacancies in October

London

30.1%

South-East England

18.5%

Eastern England

8.5%

South-West England

8.2%

West Midlands

7.4%

East Midlands

7.3%

North-West England

6.2%

Yorkshire and the Humber

4.9%

Scotland

4.0%

North-East England

3.0%

Wales

1.6%

Northern Ireland

0.4%

Despite widespread optimism, wages are still flat

But while the number of vacancies is booming, wages have yet to respond to rising demand. Average advertised salaries in October fell 2.2% from September to just £33,245. This is 1.3% lower than last October, meaning that the average British worker is £1,179 worse off in real terms this winter.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, explains: “The jobs market is thriving with new opportunities for jobseekers, and vacancies have hit a new record high. But inflation is still leaving many out of pocket. In real terms, wages have fallen £1,179 since last year, which is cutting into the Christmas budgets for many. Wages are still recovering from the economic downturn, and are slipping further behind the cost of living, as employers keep a cap on advertised salaries.

Table 1

 

September 2013

October 2013

Month Change

12-month change

UK Vacancies

710,859

748,923

+5.3%

+9.2%

Jobseekers per Vacancy

1.9

1.7

-10.5%

-26.1%

Av. Advertised UK Salary

£34,005

£33,245

-2.2%

-1.3%  

Where are all the jobs?

Nine of the best cities to find a job were in the South. Aberdeen was the only city outside the South of England to have more than 1 job available per jobseeker.  An important centre for the oil and energy industry in Europe, it was the only northern city to rank in the top ten.

Cambridge was again named the easiest city in the UK to find a job, with more than three times the number of jobs than jobseekers.

By comparison, four of the worst cities in the UK to find a job – Salford, Wirral, Sunderland and Hull – all have more than 20 jobseekers per vacancy. Birmingham is now the tenth worst city to find a job, but prospects could increase if HS2 is created, as this would form an important link between the South and the Midlands.

Andrew Hunter comments: “The North-South divide has never been so significant. Large construction projects are driving local labour markets down South, while many of the traditionally public sector-reliant Northern towns are being left in the dust. Aberdeen is something of a satellite city, with the construction sector bolstered by a thriving energy industry, which demands both engineers and infrastructure.

“Mirroring the improvements we have seen in construction, the IT & Technology, and scientific sectors have also been racing to recovery. Cambridge, the best city in the UK to find a job, is a perfect storm, being a hub for all three industries. As a result, there are over three vacancies for each jobseeker to choose from.”

In terms of salaries, the most promising signs of a salary recovery can be found in Wales and Scotland, with wages in these areas both up year-on-year in October. But the rest of the UK is lagging behind, with negative wage growth recorded in the remaining ten UK regions.

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[1] Crossrail Careers website, October 2013

[2] ONS, Output in the Construction Industry, October 2013

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Competition for jobs fell to two-year low in September

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The number of advertised job vacancies rose to its highest level in two years in September, as employer confidence returns to the UK economy, according to the latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk.

There were 710,859 advertised job vacancies in September, 3.3% higher than in September last year, and 1.7% higher than in August. It was the second month in a row in which vacancies have increased.

As the number of jobs on offer increased, competition for vacancies has fallen to a two-year low. There were 1.9 jobseekers per vacancy in September, down from 2.3 jobseekers per vacancy in September 2012. Competition for jobs has now fallen in every month of 2013 bar January.

The latest ONS statistics show that unemployment fell by the fastest rate in 16 years between August and September, with 7.7% of the economically active population out of work. With vacancies increasing and competition for jobs easing, the outlook is bright for jobseekers. It’s the strongest sign yet that the unemployment rate will hit 7.0% sooner than the Bank of England predicts.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, explains: “The labour market is turning a corner. This month witnessed the fastest fall in unemployment for 16 years. As we speak, employers are opening up new vacancies, as they invest in more staff to meet growing demand, fuelled by increased consumer spending. This has had a knock-on effect for job hunters. The relentless competition for new vacancies is beginning to ease, and there are more roles to choose from.”

UK salaries

August 2013

September 2013

Month Change

12 month change

UK Vacancies

698,862

710,859

+1.7%

+3.3%

Jobseekers per Vacancy

2.0

1.9

-5.0%

-17.4%

Av. Advertised UK Salary

£33,806

£34,005

+0.6%

-0.3%

 The average advertised salary grew 0.6% between August and September, to £34,005 p.a., the second consecutive monthly rise. But there remains a long way to go before real-term wages return to their full strength. The average advertised salary is 0.3% lower than in September 2012. In real terms, pay has fallen £1,020 in a year, as inflation has further devalued the average annual pay-packet.

Andrew Hunter explains: “The fall in real wages remains a black spot on an otherwise optimistic picture. It’s great to see salary increases, but there is still a way to go before this will close the gap of inflation, which has been outpacing wage growth ever since the financial crisis.”

Ian Brinkley, director of the Work Foundation, remarks: “The economy is generating large numbers of full time jobs, but those without skills, the young, and those living in economically depressed areas will still struggle. Many of those in work are seeing little or no wage growth. But there are cities where recovery is firmly based and occupations which buck the trend on wages. The faster these pockets of prosperity spread, the more likely recovery will be sustained.”

Graduates continue to struggle

While competition for jobs has fallen across the board, the demand has been driven among more highly skilled occupations, rather than new starters. The graduate market remains intensely competitive, with more than 50 grads competing for every job in September.

Graduate salaries have fallen for four months in a row with the average salary standing at £25,355 p.a. in September, down 3.4% year-on-year. In real-terms, graduate salaries have fallen by £1,547, or 17% in the last twelve months.

Sector breakdown

IT, Engineering and Construction jobs have seen the biggest wage improvements over the last 12 months. Salaries in these sectors have risen by 6.9%, 3.2% and 3.1% p.a. respectively.

In terms of vacancies, some of the highest performing sectors were Manufacturing and Logistics. The Manufacturing sector – a key indicator of economic health – grew 6% month-on-month. Vacancies in the Logistics sector grew 1% in the month to September, and were significantly higher year-on-year.

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 Where are all the Jobs?

Seven of the top ten cities to find a job were in London and the Home Counties, and nine of the top ten cities to find a job were in the South of England. Cambridge was the easiest place to find a job for the first time this month, with more than three advertised vacancies per jobseeker. But there remains a strong North South divide. In Salford there are 35.9 jobseekers per vacancy, in Sunderland there are 31.06 jobseekers per vacancy, and in Hull there are 25.36 jobseekers per vacancy.

Although there are fewer vacancies per jobseeker in the North, there are signs emerging of a nationwide recovery. Salaries in the North East of England have risen 1.7% year-on-year to £28,083 p.a., the biggest increase of any UK region. This has been driven by the resilient local manufacturing sector. The North East is home to international firms like Nissan and Hitachi, with the former recently announcing plans to extend its Wearside manufacturing plant. Salaries in Scotland also rose year-on-year, to £33,290 p.a., although pay in both regions still fall far short of salaries in London, which rose 1.6% year-on-year to £40,062 p.a.

Andrew Hunter comments: “The job market in the South is being boosted by the increase in IT and Technology jobs. Cambridge, Guildford and Reading – three of the four best cities to find a job – are vital tech hubs for the economy. Cambridge is the beating heart of “Silicon Fen”, a cluster of software, electronics and biotech companies based in the East of England. Meanwhile Guildford and Reading are both on the M4 Corridor, which has long been a hub for the UK bases of major global tech companies. Tech employers are actively recruiting

News Headlines: Sunday 11th August

Economic

Britain’s economy is outpacing all its main competitors including America, according to combined data from Markit and JP Morgan. Britain’s economy is growing at an annualised rate of 2.4%, compared to 1.7% annual growth in the USA and an on-going recession in the Eurozone. Many economists are now upgrading their forecasts for this year and next. “This recovery is broad, and the broader it is, the more sustainable it is”, says Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit. (Sunday Times p.2)

Personal Finance / Property

With official interest rates at record lows, and now set to remain so until an improving economy brings the unemployment below 7%, savers are bracing themselves for what could be a three more years of a 0.5% base rate. If interest rates did rise in 2016, in total that would mean a seven year wait for higher returns. Sunday Times Money has a full feature on what impact below-inflation returns could mean for savers, focusing on the move into property investments, and the rise of Buy-to-Let borrowing to leverage these deals. Buy-to-Let house purchases are expected to hit 85,000 this year and 100,000 in 2014, fuelled by strong rental yields, currently averaging 5.3% according to the LSL Buy-to-Let Index.

David Whittaker of Mortgages for Business said, “In the last couple of days we have seen a surge in calls for savers looking for advice on getting into the buy-to-let market. Clients want a better return ion savings than they would get by sticking their savings in the bank.” (Sunday Times Money p.1)

Recruitment

Unemployment could fall to a new low in this week’s jobless figures. According to IHS Global Insight the official figures on Wednesday will show a fall in unemployment of 38,000 to a 25 month low of 2.48 million. They also expect a rise in employment levels – predicting 52,000 more people in work to take the total number of people employed in the UK to 29.8 million. (Sunday Express Financial p.1) Tara Ricks, managing director of Randstad Financial and Professional, says “the jobs market is humming” and that this will help “stoke the fires of the economy”. In his column, the Express’s Geoff Ho is more cautiously optimistic saying we should still “keep the champagne on ice” for the time being, highlighting youth unemployment, which is still stubbornly high.

News headlines – Monday 29th July 2013

Economics
Lending to the UK’s businesses will finally pick up in 2014 as the economic recovery gains momentum, according to EY’s quarterly Item Club forecast. Business lending is expected to fall for the fifth year in a row this year to £422bn, but the Item Club expects conditions to improve after that, with lending eventually surpassing its pre-crisis peak in 2017.The Item Club now expects the Bank of England base rate to stay at 0.5% for a year longer than it forecast in the spring and doesn’t expect the MPC to raise rates until the opening months of 2016. Financial Times, p.2; Daily Express, p.46;

Personal Finance
MPs are suggesting the energy watchdog, Ofgem, is not doing enough to ensure that energy company profits are transparent. The committee of MPs said consumers need reassurance that the profits made by the ‘big six’ energy companies are not excessive. Ofgem said it had made energy companies produce yearly financial statements and they had been reviewed by accountants. BBC Online

Property
Vince Cable has warned the Chancellor’s pet project of Help to Buy could produce another house price bubble. The second £12bn tranche of the scheme, which will begin in January 2014, will give buyers of all properties the ability to borrow with only a 5% deposit. The UK housing market has already been given a boost by the first part of the scheme, which has subsidised an estimated £1.3bn of house purchases since its launch in April. Financial Times, p.2 (Elizabeth Rigby). Daily Telegraph, p.2; Times, p.14; Daily Mail, p.2

Sarah O’Grady covers the Hometrack house price index showing prices have risen 1.3% over the last year. Daily Express, p.2

Employment/Recruitment
Brian Groom writes about job growth fueling fears of a regional fault-line with almost half of all UK job vacancies appearing in southest England last month. He includes Adzuna.co.uk research which shows that competition for jobs has fallen for five consecutive months as employers create more vacancies. The number of jobseekers per advertised vacancy has fallen from 3.3 in February to 2.9 in June. The biggest growth in vacancies was in manufacturing, according to Adzuna.co.uk. Financial Times, p.3.