There is light at the end of the tunnel

Jamie Sharp

Writer & Blogger

As I am sure you’ve read many times over the last year, 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, especially in the job market.

Hundreds of high street names have disappeared or regrouped as digital-only enterprises resulting in the loss of many thousands of jobs. Whole sectors have been unable to function for months, especially hospitality, travel, and visitor attractions.

The UK government’s furlough scheme that has helped companies pay their employees’ salaries during the pandemic is currently set to finish in September, which may, when it ends, cause an additional spike in unemployment as 4.7 million people were on furlough in January 2021.

What is the employment outlook for 2021?

The last significant downturn in employment was in the 2008/09 recession. Since then, job vacancies have steadily increased, reaching 855,000 vacancies between November 2018 and January 2019.

At the start of the pandemic, job vacancies declined sharply. This was initially followed by signs of a quick and sustained recovery, but this tailed off in the autumn of 2020 as further restrictions and national lockdowns were introduced.

The fourth quarter, from October to December 2020, showed an estimated 578,000 vacancies in the UK, a quarterly increase of 81,000 vacancies. This was the smallest quarterly increase since the previous quarter; however, vacancies are still coming onto the market. Despite an increase of 35,000 vacancies for the largest businesses with 2,500 or more employees, estimated vacancies are still 95,000 lower than a year ago.

Generally, since 2013 the number of jobs has been steadily increasing, but in September 2020, this fell by 475,000 to an estimated 34.68 million jobs, the largest quarterly fall since records began in June 1959. The UK employment rate in the three months to January 2021 was estimated at 75%, which is 1.5% lower than a year earlier and 0.3% lower than the previous quarter.

Unemployment in the UK in January 2021 was estimated at 5%, a 1.1% increase from a year earlier and a 0.1% increase on the previous quarter. This equated to an estimated 1.7 million people unemployed, up 360,000 from last year and 11,000 in the previous quarter. This looks set to increase as many workers still protected by the furlough scheme, which is currently due to end in September 2021. On a more positive note, 68,000 more people were in payroll employment in February 2021 than the previous month. This is the third consecutive monthly increase in the number of people employed.

Job opportunities that have arisen out of the Coronavirus pandemic

Janine Chamberlin, senior director at LinkedIn, said though the coronavirus pandemic had ‘evidently created job turmoil for many, it has also fuelled a wave of roles that are growing in demand and offer people immediate opportunities’.

LinkedIn’s data scientists analysed more than 15,000 job titles in the UK to identify jobs that have seen the most growth between April and October 2020 compared to the previous year.

Several areas have benefited, with jobs in e-commerce, healthcare, and digital content freelancing amongst the fastest growing in the UK in 2021. Other growth areas that have been trending since the start of the coronavirus pandemic include a surge in demand for staff to support doctors and nurses, as healthcare systems struggled to cope with the high number of patients.

Based on the analysis carried out by LinkedIn, below is a list of a selection of the UK’s most in-demand job sectors, including the most popular roles, most sought after skills, and the areas these jobs are required in.

The UK’s most in-demand jobs in 2021

E-commerce personnel

Top jobs: Driver, supply chain associate, supply chain assistant, warehouse team lead and online specialist.

Top skills required: Order fulfilment, retail, order packing, warehouse operations and professional driving.

Hiring: Midlands and Northwest UK.

Digital content freelancers

Top jobs: Content coordinator, YouTuber, blogger, podcaster.

Top skills: Podcasting, YouTube, blogging, and video editing.

Hiring: London, Birmingham, and Manchester.

Social Media and Digital Marketing

Top Jobs: Growth hacker, growth specialist, marketing consultant, social media manager and social media coordinator.

Top skills: Digital marketing, growth hacking, growth strategies and social media marketing.

Hiring: London, Manchester, and Belfast.

Specialised engineering

Top jobs: Back-end developer, game designer, game developer, reliability engineer, and software engineering specialist.

Top skills: Go (programming language), game design, game development, reliability engineering, and JavaScript.

Hiring: London, Manchester, and Liverpool.

Artificial Intelligence

Top jobs: Machine learning engineer and machine learning researcher.

Top skills: Deep learning and machine learning.

Hiring: London, Cambridge, and Manchester.

Mental health professional

Top jobs: Clinical psychologist, mental health counsellor, mental health practitioner, mental health specialist, occupational therapist, psychiatric nurse, psychologist, and psychotherapist.

Top skills: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, mental health care, rehabilitation, and nursing.

Hiring: London, Manchester, and Birmingham.

Customer Service

Top jobs: Customer service consultant, customer service advisor, customer support specialist, customer contact representative.

Top skills: Time management, customer support, retail, customer satisfaction, customer experience.

Hiring: Manchester, London, Newcastle.


Top Jobs: English tutor, mathematics tutor, academic tutor, instructional design specialist.

Top Skills: tutoring, teaching, e-learning, history, language teaching.

Hiring: Manchester, London, Birmingham.

Specialised medical professionals

Top jobs: intensive care nurses, certified nursing assistants, laboratory scientists, medical laboratory assistants.

Top skills: healthcare, clinical research, clinical pharmacy, medicine.

Hiring: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow.


Over the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted families and livelihoods and changed the way we live, possibly forever. The effect it’s had on the economy, job market, and businesses have in many cases been cataclysmic, but as with previous global health or economic problems, we will, over time, bounce back.

The jobs market is adjusting to the effects of the pandemic and how we have adapted the way we work. Jobs that allow us to work from home, such as freelancing, web design, and other tech roles, have significantly increased, as have careers within the medical community and education.

Travel, hospitality, and the Food & Drink industry jobs have all suffered in the short term, but as lockdown eases and life returns to ‘normal’, some of these jobs will once again be required.

As the UK vaccination programme continues apace and infection levels, hospitalisations and deaths from coronavirus are reduced,the economy will inevitably rebound, which in turn will give a much-needed boost to the UK job market.

“Historically recruitment has been a sector that has been first to recover post recession and for eSift that has been the case following a challenging 2020. As of March 2021,GDP in the UK is expected to grow by 4% percent in 2021, and by a further 7.3 percent in 2022. The predictions will create optimism and confidence to UK businesses that like us, are recovering from the impact of 2020. We have witnessed a much-needed boost to the UK job market. Our clients are proactively focused on succession planning, skills shortages and talent pipeline to ensure their business are prepared and equipped for the anticipated growth. Agility is key for any business given we are operating in a fragile market. However, in 2 months our headcount has trebled in order to meet the demands of in-house teams and high growth tech businesses by providing agile recruitment solutions. Let hope and pray it lasts!”

Geraldine Cole, Director eSift

Find out how our award-winning, on-demand recruitment solutions can reshape the way you meet your hiring needs.

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