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Oxfordshire Recruitment Market Overview for Q1 of 2022

If there's one thing the pandemic has taught us it's how to be agile, work outside of our comfort zone and adapt quickly to changing circumstances. This is particularly true of recruitment which has seen a massive shift in the jobs market over the last 12 months. A year ago, jobs were hard to come by and employers could take their pick of great candidates. Now, as we hurtle into the first quarter of 2022, we find the opposite to be true: job vacancies have reached another record high, unemployment has fallen and the pool of available candidates is even smaller than it was before the pandemic.

Fortunately, there are strategies that businesses can adopt to attract and retain the people they need to achieve their ambitions in 2022 and beyond. Read on for the latest research findings from the UK's biggest jobs site Indeed and gain the insights you need to inform your hiring strategies for the year ahead.

An overview of the current jobs market

The UK economy is recovering well, with economists predicting growth of 4.5% in 2022. In fact the economy is bigger than before the pandemic took hold, with higher economic output in November 2021 than in February 2020 before the first lockdown took place.

An anecdotal pulse survey of (mostly) Oxfordshire-based employers and HR professionals revealed that 65% of businesses are already operating at or above their pre-pandemic levels. Businesses are hiring again in record numbers but with so many job vacancies and so few candidates, there is a real risk that growth will stall.

Pawel Adrjan, head of EMEA Research at Indeed and guest speaker at our Zoom HR Hub in January, explained: "A combination of high numbers of vacancies and a shortage of workers will threaten growth unless employers revisit their hiring strategies as a matter of urgency and consider new ways of attracting the staff they need.

"The number of vacancies posted on Indeed reached new highs in January and is now well above pre-pandemic levels. Businesses are re-hiring as part of their recovery, replacing exiting staff and hiring for growth.

"Against this backdrop, unemployment is low at 4.1% (November 2021) and there are around one million fewer people actively participating in the workforce than what we would expect had the pre-pandemic trend continued."

"These factors have led to the tightest labour market on record with an average of 1.1 unemployed people per open job vacancy. Unsurprisingly, this is creating huge competition among recruiters and the war for talent has never been fiercer."

Pawel Adrjan, Head of EMEA Research at Indeed

Oxfordshire recruitment trends

There are inevitably variations in the UK-wide trends and experiences of individual businesses across industry sectors, roles and locations.

The number of Oxfordshire-based job vacancies posted on Indeed is 29% higher now than it was before the pandemic, but this is below the national average of 36%. On the face of it, this is good news for employers as it means competition may be slightly less intense than in other parts of the country.

However, the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in Oxfordshire is significantly below the national average. With fewer people looking for work, surveys suggest that it may actually be tougher for Oxfordshire-based employers to fill their vacancies.

Why are there so few jobseekers?

Indeed's research has revealed a number of reasons why people have not returned to the jobs market, despite the easing of covid restrictions and more jobs to choose from than ever before.

These include:

  • Ongoing covid-related health concerns
  • Shortage of foreign workers due to the pandemic, travel restrictions and Brexit
  • A mis-match between the types of open jobs, where they are located and the skills available
  • Low pay and unattractive working conditions in some occupations
  • Fewer older workers participating in the workforce

Employers are being urged to be more open-minded about their recruitment and consider new ways to broaden the appeal of their businesses and the roles they are recruiting for.

How to attract a more diverse range of job applicants

One of the ways in which employers can widen their pool of potential candidates is to think carefully about how to attract individuals within 'hard to reach' groups who are still sitting on the side lines or struggle to find work, and yet may be highly employable. 

These include:

  • Older workers

Highly experienced workers, between the ages of 50 and 64, who withdrew from the jobs market during the pandemic and haven't returned, may need additional incentives. Employers that are open minded and prepared to offer greater flexibility and higher levels of pay may be able to entice older, highly skilled and experienced people out of semi-retirement or lifestyle businesses, and back into full or part-time employment

  • Young people

Although they may not have acquired the skills or experience that employers are looking for, young people straight out of school, college or university often have the hunger, energy and drive that so many businesses find attractive. Many young people have the potential to get up to speed quickly and add value to businesses with an investment of time and training

  • Single parents and other carers

People with caring responsibilities may be looking for a degree of flexibility that employers would prefer not to offer – but could, with some reasonable adjustments

  • Disabled people

Disabled people may be more tempted to apply for a wider range of roles if they felt confident that they would be given the right tools and support

There are real opportunities for employers to tap into this market by identifying who these groups are and what it would take to entice them back into the workplace.

What are today's jobseekers looking for?

1. Highly competitive salaries

According to Indeed's research, pay is the single biggest motivator for jobseekers. They also want to develop their careers and enjoy greater flexibility in terms of where, when and how they work.

Indeed's Pawel Adrjan explained: "The jobs market is extremely competitive and looks to remain that way for quite some time, so the more employers are able to increase salaries for existing staff and new recruits, the better their chances of retaining and attracting the best people.

"In December 2021, year-on-year wage growth ticked up to 4.1% across all job postings, which is an encouraging sign. However, it is not enough to offset cost of living rises of 4.8% so employers will need to dig deeper and do more if they want to recruit well."

If a business is not in a position to increase salaries at this time, there are a couple of strategies worth looking at:

  • There are large variations in wage growth across sectors and locations. It may pay to consider candidates with experience of working in similar roles but in different industry sectors where salaries are lower
  • Benefits packages or working arrangements could be enhanced in a way that doesn't impact cashflow but will still be attractive to candidates and may even trump what competitors are offering

2. Remote working

Working arrangements remain top of mind for many candidates. Remote working keywords accounted for 2.4% of all job searches on Indeed in December 2021, up from 0.3% before the pandemic.

Pawel commented: "Despite covid restrictions easing considerably, we are still seeing a record number of people searching for jobs that offer remote working options. While not all roles or industry sectors lend themselves to this, and not all workers want to work from home, there are many jobs and many people that do, and so employers are urged to consider offering it if they can.

"The key thing is to include remote working in the wording of job adverts so that they are captured by the searches and seen by as many jobseekers as possible. Mention flexible working where possible to attract older workers, single parents, disabled people and other under-represented groups – and highlight career prospects together with training and development opportunities to entice younger applicants.

"Our research suggests that employers are already responding to this trend and we continue to see a sizeable share of jobs offer remote working options. While some of them are tagged as 'temporarily remote due to covid', many are being advertised as 'permanently remote' which suggests remote working is here to stay."

Jobs in city centre locations tend to be more office-based and therefore tend to lend themselves more to remote working. Oxford is currently in 13th position with more remote job postings than the UK average, while Oxfordshire with its more rural areas, is below average.

Overall, both Oxford and Oxfordshire-based employers offer more opportunities for remote working than they did before the pandemic.

Four key takeaways to inform hiring strategies in 2022

1. The labour market will stay tight and competition will remain tough so employers must adapt and find new ways to attract and retain staff

2. The pace of economic recovery varies across locations, sectors and roles, providing an opportunity for growing businesses to attract candidates from lagging sectors

3. There are a larger number of under-represented groups that haven't returned to employment after successive national lockdowns, who may be ideal candidates if they are given the right incentives and support

4. Pay is a key motivator for today's jobseekers. Raise salaries to attract and retain staff where possible and if not, spend more time on developing non-financial benefits that will be desirable and act as a differentiator

Advice and support

For further information about the recruitment market in Oxfordshire or help with your next hire, please contact Kate Allen, Managing Director at Allen Associates, on 01865 335600 or kate@allen-associates.co.uk

Pawel Adrjan is Head of EMEA Research at Indeed. He was the guest speaker at Allen Associates Zoom HR Hub in January 2022 when he talked to employers and HR professionals about labour market trends and the hiring strategies businesses may want to consider during the year ahead. You can find out more about Pawel's work and connect with him here on LinkedIn.

Further insights

Kate Allen

Kate Allen

Kate founded Allen Associates in 1998 out of a determination to build a recruitment business which delivered a bespoke service centred on the needs of clients and candidates.

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