National 2021 Review: Vacancies reach all-time high as London dominates labour market with record 20k+ new jobs

Jan 20, 2022 | News, Regions

  • London creates record high of 20,000 jobs – up 53% on pre-pandemic levels
  • Vacancies in England & Wales up 113% on 2020, Wales with largest surge
  • JPMorgan up from third in 2020 to overtake Amazon as busiest 2021 recruiter
  • TMT sector with most new jobs as remote working dominates business world
  • HR jobs in largest surge, employee engagement experts/recruiters most in demand 

New jobs in the UK reached record levels in 2021, with London’s status as a major international tech and innovation hub driving vacancies in the capital to all-time highs.

According to a 2021 review of the UK labour market by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and data analytics firm Vacancysoft, the largest firms in England and Wales published 113.9% more vacancies in 2021 compared to a year earlier.

London remains a major and profitable financial centre and the UK’s driving economic force, despite the City losing access to the EU. Although growth in new professional vacancies across all regions was relatively uniform, London dominated with nearly 205,000 new jobs, a 114% year-on-year increase and 53% more in relation to 2019.

In Wales vacancy volumes finished 137% year-on-year, the largest growth outside London. The northern regions also fared well, with the North West (accounting for the most vacancies), the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber experiencing 113%, 128.2% and 126.1% year-on-year rises.

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo, said: “Hiring activity reached record highs in 2021 and it was extremely promising to see the UK showing incredible signs of recovery. However, with the emergence of Omicron, it would appear that the pandemic is not yet behind us and will certainly continue to have an impact on recruitment in 2022.

“With skills shortages also remaining a key challenge in what is likely to be yet another unprecedented year, we expect to see an increased focus on the likes of diverse recruitment, upskilling and reskilling as well as embracing recruitment tech in order to broaden the scope of talent pools in the coming months.”

JPMorgan up from third in 2020 to overtake Amazon as busiest 2021 recruiter

In a boost to UK financial services, JPMorgan rose from 15th place in 2019 to top spot in 2021 — overtaking Amazon for the firm with the most vacancies —  a welcome sign for a sector still a bit dazed following Brexit. Meanwhile, in a challenging year for the building industry, Arup increased its annual profits and recorded the largest year-on-year growth in vacancy volumes (985%) out of the top firms.

Top 20 firms, professional vacancies, all sectors, England & Wales, 2020-2021

# Company Sector HQ 2020 2021 YOY
1 JPMorgan Chase & Co Investment Finance USA 2419 5347 121%
2 Amazon Software & Computer Services USA 3292 4914 49.3%
3 Citi Commercial Banking USA 1831 4121 125.1%
4 Sky Media Broadcasting / Publishing UK 1536 3843 150.2%
5 Nationwide Building Society Commercial Banking UK 1153 3484 202.2%
17 Arup Consulting Engineers UK 165 1790 984.8%

TMT sector with most new jobs as remote working dominates business world

In anticipation of an end to lockdowns, companies in the UK went on an unprecedented hiring spree from early last year. With remote and hybrid working becoming the new normal, jobs across technology, media and telecoms experienced the fastest growth, up by 121% year-on-year — pulling further away from financial services in terms of annual vacancy volumes.

Across the most popular functions, jobs in IT continue to be the largest area as firms strengthened and expanded their digital infrastructure, up by 106.8% year-on-year. After a difficult 2020, vacancies for HR specialists experienced the largest uptick in 2021, up by 145% in relation to 2020. Employee engagement and recruitment experts were particularly sought after to help with geographically dispersed teams and increased demand for staff.

Vacancysoft CEO James Chaplin said:

“This next year offers little respite from the struggles of the last two years. The Omicron covid variant, while relatively benign compared to earlier variants, is spreading rapidly. Consequently, working from home is likely to remain prevalent, certainly in the first months of 2022 — with consequences for businesses hiring and onboarding. But rather than simply throwing caution to the wind, recruiters can thrive by making calculated, insight-led gambles.”

  • The data for this article is taken from a 2021 review of the UK labour market by Vacancysoft and APSCo. Read it here.

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