- Just 11% of workers currently on furlough or not working are urgently seeking a job, a new Indeed UK survey finds.
- Almost two-thirds of those on furlough aren’t searching at all or are searching passively, reflecting that most survey respondents expect to return to their jobs when the programme finishes at the end of September.
- The main reasons those who are unemployed but not urgently seeking work give for their stance are access to financial buffers, benefits or partner income, followed by COVID-19 concerns and caring responsibilities.
- One-third of all respondents want to wait until more jobs are available before starting a new position, while others want to take time off or wait for the new school year.
The strong recovery in labour demand as the UK economy reopens has been met by growing hiring shortages. Employers across a range of sectors have encountered difficulty filling vacancies, a problem sometimes compounded by Brexit.
To help understand the UK’s labour market dynamics at this stage of the pandemic, the Indeed Hiring Lab surveyed 5,000 people in mid-July, ages 18-64. The sample included individuals both in and out of the labour force, taking in employed workers, those on furlough and the jobless.
By tracking jobseeker attitudes and behaviour over time, we hope to get a better sense of labour market trends during the economic recovery.
Few jobseekers feel they need to find a job right away, even among the unemployed and those still furloughed, the survey found.
Financial cushions were a major reason for the lack of urgency among unemployed jobseekers. Other jobless respondents indicated they were able to get by on benefits they receive or income collected by partners. COVID-19 fears and caring responsibilities were also cited as reasons for not seeking a job urgently.
More generally, respondents reported they preferred to wait for more jobs to become available. For now at least, most people seem patient and not inclined to take whatever work they can find.
Few people urgently looking for work
Only 7% of those responding to Indeed UK’s job search survey were actively and urgently looking for a new position. A further 17% said they were actively searching, but without urgency.
This lack of urgency held even among respondents who were out of work or on furlough. In both cases, just 11% indicated they were searching for work urgently. A further 23% of those on furlough and 16% of those not working were actively searching, but not urgently.
Among those on full furlough and not searching for work, 71% reported they weren’t looking because they expected to return to their jobs. Another 12% indicated they were not comfortable returning to in-person work due to COVID-19. Some 9% believed there was no work available nearby, while 6% said they had care responsibilities.
Financial cushions lessening urgency among unemployed
Among the unemployed — defined as those who are jobless and actively searching for paid work — a sense of financial security is allowing some to be choosier about the jobs they search and apply for. Around 30% of unemployed people who are not urgently looking for work said they had a financial cushion sufficient for some time.
UK households have built substantial savings during the pandemic as lockdowns limited opportunities to spend. This has primarily benefited the better-off who kept working. Nonetheless, those who left employment recently may also have some savings to fall back on, regardless of economic status.
Some 17% said they could manage because their spouse or partner was still employed. Health concerns surrounding in-person work continue to have an impact — 15% reported they were not urgently looking for work due to COVID-19 fears. Another 14% said they could get by on their benefits, while 13% indicated their search wasn’t pressing because they had care responsibilities, whether for children, the elderly or people with disabilities.
People waiting for more job opportunities
When survey participants were asked when they would like to start a new job, 33% said when more job opportunities were available. Job vacancies have risen substantially in recent months and postings on Indeed UK now stand well above pre-pandemic levels. The fact that so many respondents believe suitable positions are scarce suggests a degree of mismatch. That is, the jobs that are available may not be in fields people want. However, some respondents may simply be waiting for better opportunities to emerge.
The second most widely chosen response, selected by 17% of respondents, was that they would like to start a new job after taking holiday or time off. Another 10% reported they would like to wait until the new school year starts.
Conclusion: Most people seem patient… for now
Even though many employers are desperate for staff, a large portion of respondents were more relaxed about finding work and seem unlikely to take any job that’s available. Many would prefer to wait for more job opportunities before taking their pick.
The phasing out of furlough by the end of September could change the picture to some extent. Almost 2 million workers were still on furlough at the end of June. Most survey respondents said they will return to their jobs. But some workers may find they won’t go back and will need to start actively searching.
Meanwhile, financial cushions will erode, which could create a greater sense of urgency among those who are currently out of work, but happy to sit on the sidelines.
For now, amid a backdrop of robust labour demand and a strong sellers’ market, most people seem to feel they can be choosy.
This blog post is based on an Indeed UK online survey conducted 12-20 July of 5,000 UK adults 18-64. Weights were applied to each survey to match respondent distributions across age, gender, region, education and ethnicity-based on data from the Office for National Statistics.
Unemployed workers are defined as those who are jobless and actively searching for paid work, either urgently or not urgently. Jobless respondents who are passively looking for work or not open to work are not included in the unemployed category, but are considered out of the labour force.