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West Midlands Local Skills Report Annex B - Evidence Base 2022

Impact of COVID-19 on skills demand

The current pandemic and its mitigation efforts are having a sweeping impact on both current and future economic activity in the region, with every level of the skills system likely to be affected for an as-yet unknown period of time. We saw significant economic recovery since the full lockdown of winter 2020/2021, and a successful drawdown of the job retention scheme in September 2021, though these gains are as yet imperilled by the rising caseload at the time of writing.

Jobs postings

Emsi analysis of unique job postings (sourced from online job sites, general and industry-specific) throughout the West Midlands (3LEP) area in the six months to September 2020 saw a steep decline in total unique job postings through the pandemic period. Considered at the Local Authority level, Birmingham generated by far the most jobs, 124,205, with Coventry second at 29,953. This discrepancy remains when controlling for population size, with the 2011 Census putting Birmingham’s population at 1.086 million and Coventry’s at 325,949. No other local authorities are close, with Warwick producing more jobs (15,472) than Wolverhampton(14,848).

A decline in job postings may be caused as much by a drop in staff retention as by a drop in growth. While we can speculate that key sectors such as digital and construction may have been more resilient than others to the lockdown and mitigation measures (due to greater ability to continue working), a drop
in economic output is likely to significantly impact employment growth across the board. This decline is corroborated by the job postings figures from the skills data firm Adzuna’s database, which collates job postings on multiple job boards and employer websites. Data made publicly available via ONS for the UK and for the English regions showed a comparable trend over the last year

The average England job postings rate was halved in July 2020 versus the 2019 average. Retail, unsurprisingly, was worst hit of all sectors, with recruitment still around one third of the 2019 average, up from 25% during the lockdown period. These findings are consistent with the similar decline in the Emsi job postings figures over the same period, and the rising claimant count figures, with the West Midlands being hit less heavily than the England average.