4 months ago by Lauren Fonseca

2021: A Vintage Year for Hiring?

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It can be no surprise to anyone that hiring during the pandemic in 2020 came to what felt like a significant halt. The UK market showed numbers that dipped below anything it had experienced in years. However, in the first half of 2021, as the country starts to open back up again, hiring levels too have started to recover and increasingly gain in strength with each passing month. This is especially true of both IT recruitment and the financial sector.

Vacancies within financial services during April 2021, for instance, were at their highest levels since pre-COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent report published by APSCo (the Association of Professional Staffing Companies). Whilst hiring in 2020 nosedived quite dramatically after the pandemic hit, one year on the market has seen an increase of over 275% vacancies within the financial sector. Of this number, vacancies for IT specialists account for 31%. 

The data also revealed that hiring in the fintech space specifically has shown the fastest growth – indeed, job vacancies during the first four months of 2021 already accounted for over 70% of the entirety of open vacancies in the year of 2020. Vacancies in fintech make up over 20% of the total vacancies within the financial sector, which is a first for fintech firms across the country. Conversely, recruitment in commercial banking, despite making up the largest share of vacancies, is the slowest to progress in 2021, making up 45.4% of the total vacancies in 2020. Even then, it’s evident just how fast the recruitment market seems to be recovering from the huge downturn it took in 2020 – it’s anticipated that by the second quarter of the year, vacancies in the financial sector will have reached well past the total demand in 2020. 

Increasingly, we’re seeing a candidate-driven market, as more and more companies try to fill new requirements that were not available during 2020. The competition over talent has become fiercer than ever, with the market seeing much more vacancies available than there are candidates in IT, particularly within specialist spaces. 

The data, provided by market analytics company Vacancysoft, also shows us that, quite unsurprisingly, 56% of all active financial services vacancies are based within London – the highest region in the company. The south east of England comes in at second, with just under 10% of all financial services vacancies. 

IT hiring in general, too, beyond the financial sector, has surged in the first quarter of 2021. Where data showed a monthly average of 5,200 IT vacancies across England and Wales in 2020, by April 2021 the market has seen an average closer to 8,600 IT vacancies per month. 

Again unsurprisingly, London saw the biggest share of IT vacancies, taking 46.3% of the market share in the first 4 months of 2021, an increase on the 44.9% share of the overall market across all of 2020. Tech companies and banking institutions have seen the most hiring of IT professionals across the entire IT sector. Tech companies lead the way with 44.2% of all hiring – up from the 38.8% across 2020. IT Vacancies in banking took a 10.8% market share. Perhaps surprisingly, this represents a fall in the share of IT roles across the market, down from 13% in 2020 – the steepest fall of all sectors. So, whilst hiring is certainly up in general for IT professionals, a larger percentage of these roles are appearing in other industries outside of traditional banking – sectors such as retail, media, and insurance.

Taking a closer look at the IT vacancies that have been advertised in the first quarter of 2021, it seems the most highly sought after across England and Wales continue to be Engineering and Development roles, accounting for a whopping 30.8% of all professional IT vacancies. This is just ahead of IT management experts, taking a 19.7% of the share. Looking even closer at the data, the market is seeing a surge in demand for IT professionals the specialise in artistic or creative roles, a need for those vacancies soaring to 90.9% higher that the 2020 quarterly average. Demand for UX researchers has surged by a huge 210.6% and technical writers by 72.6%.

In general, we can see a strong upward trend in IT and financial sector hiring. In the wider market too, we see that permanent vacancies across all sectors increased by 10% from May 21 to June 21 and contract roles similarly increased by 14% in the same time. This is a 72% increase on where things were last year for permanent opportunities and a huge 90% increase for contract opportunities. Whilst this signals progress of general recovery, it also signifies something else quite significant – a competitive war for professional talent across the UK. This is complicated more by the other ways the market has changed – remote and hybrid working, employees seemingly putting greater weight than ever on a work/life balance and an influx of new technology focused on work and work practices. Strategic plans for attracting great talent have become more crucial than ever. Companies succeed when built by the right people – and for the moment, finding and keeping the right people could be more challenging than ever.