In the last few years, Brexit and Covid have created economic disruption in the United Kingdom. With labour shortages now affecting most industries, large and small businesses are struggling to find workers. Featuring data from and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this article gives an overview of the mid-2022 UK labour market. How tight is the job market compared to pre-pandemic times? Which industries are currently most in need of workers? How did we get here, and how can recruiters thrive in a candidate-driven landscape?  

First, let’s look at the current state of the UK economy: 

MicrosoftTeams-image (49)

Inflation jumped to 10.1% in July, passing the symbolic bar of a double-digit price increase which could aggravate the cost-of-living crisis (the fall in disposable income and purchasing power) that the UK has experienced since late 2021. With soaring household energy and food bills, the cost of living is already increasing quickly and outpacing wage growth.  

Inflation, which had already reached 9.4% over one year in June, remains at its highest level in 40 years. To tackle the rising inflation rate, the Bank of England has raised interest rates for a fifth time in succession. On the other hand, the unemployment rate continues to fall in the United Kingdom, reaching its lowest level in almost 50 years.  MicrosoftTeams-image (43)In June of 2021, the number of job vacancies began to exceed that of unemployed workers, and the gap has continued to widen ever since. Record-high job openings may sound favourable in terms of maintaining low unemployment. However, employers are finding it difficult to fill open positions in all areas of the economy, which is limiting economic recovery.MicrosoftTeams-image (44)Labour market tightness in the UK reached its pre-Covid level in June of 2021 and has been steadily increasing since, going far beyond a pre-pandemic “bounce back.” According to a recent Bloomberg report, this increase in tightness is partly explained by the high numbers of older workers dropping out of the workforce, notably due to retirement or sickness. MicrosoftTeams-image (45)-1Employers in these four key industries are struggling to find talent, with the biggest increase in labour market tightness affecting STEM and food-related occupations. Due to widespread labour shortages in the food sector, businesses must make investments to recruit and retain employees while also preparing for a future with fewer workers and higher levels of automation, according to Just FoodMicrosoftTeams-image (46)Indicative of a highly competitive talent acquisition landscape, figures from reveal an increase in job sponsoring across industries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, food-related occupations have seen the biggest increase in the last two years, followed by business and financial occupations.  MicrosoftTeams-image (47)Severe staff shortages have affected most sectors, including healthcare and social care. In fact, according to a Skills for Care report, one in three care workers left their job in 2020–2021, making continuity of care extremely difficult. In an effort to fill healthcare positions, many recruiters in this field have increased their job ad sponsoring expenditures.  

What does all this mean for HR & talent acquisition professionals?   

For now, job vacancies still abound and quality candidates can be hard to come by. While it is challenging to hire in such a tight market, there are many tools and strategies recruiters can use to adapt their hiring process to the current environment. Here are three aspects to focus on for a cost-effective and powerful hiring strategy:  

An eye for retention 

A high turnover rate can negatively impact a company’s revenues and reputation. Considering how costly onboarding and training can be, it is crucial for employers to support their current teams. What is recruitment without retention?

One way to increase retention rates is to conduct exit interviews. Gathering data on the various reasons why employees leave will enable you to clearly identify some of your organization’s gaps and shortcomings, which you can use to boost retention and organizational effectiveness. When it comes to interviews, highlight the long-term nature of the role and ask about previous workplace dissatisfaction to know early on if you and the candidate are on the same page. 

Candidate personas

The key to making great hires is to know who you are searching for, meaning not just a set of skills but the person as a whole/the whole package. In an era where new employees are hard to come by, having a clearly defined candidate persona will help you target your opportunities to the right groups of people.

Start by conducting interviews with your productive and happy colleagues. Ask about their motivations, career paths, job search habits, what drives them to stay in the profession, what they value, what makes them feel fulfilled, etc. Gathering data will help you get form a better picture of your ideal hire, i.e., a candidate persona. Ideally, you should have a persona for each type of role you're trying to fill. A candidate persona will help you adapt your message to your audience and recruit the right people for your company, skill-wise and culture-wise. 


While recruiting in a tight market, quickly responding to and moving applicants through the recruitment process will be key. The most efficient way to do this is to automate crucial steps in the process. For example:  

  • Use a comprehensive applicant tracking system to filter, select and nurture candidates.  
  • Accelerate the initial screening process by distributing questions to a large number of candidates and reviewing their response videos at once.  
  • Use an interview scheduling tool to let candidates choose and change time slots without back-and-forth messaging. 
  • Make sure every candidate is aware of their status within and the timeline of the hiring process by automatically sending them a detailed message after each action (application, first interview, etc.).  
  • Be open to change and consider adopting new processes as more modern technological tools become available. 


Written in collaboration with Labour Economist Morgan Raux  


About is a leading job search and recruitment platform available in 78 countries. We help you post jobs, craft personalized digital campaigns and track performance to reach your hiring goals. On this blog, we use our industry expertise to inform and guide you in the development and implementation of your recruitment strategy. Follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our blog to get the latest scoop on job seeker interest, hiring news, job market trends and talent acquisition technology. Looking for advice to maximize your recruitment ROI? Contact our team of experts today.

Get exclusive industry analysis, reports and inspirations directly to your inbox!