Job seekers have the advantage as vacancies continue to outnumber applicants, recruitment


  • It’s a good time to be a job seeker, said James Reed, the chairman of Reed Group.
  • There are more job vacancies, but there are fewer people applying Reed told Insider.
  • data showed the average number of applicants per role fell from 13 to 6 in November 2021.

It’s a good time to be a job seeker according to the chairman of the UK’s largest recruitment company.

James Reed, the Chairman of The Reed Group, told Insider that amid the soaring number of job vacancies, data from the company’s own job posting website shows that fewer people are applying for roles, which partly explains the labor shortages that many companies continue to experience on both sides of the Atlantic.

In total, there were 3.3 million jobs added to in 2021, 1.5 million more than in 2020 and a “significant increase” on a pre-pandemic 2.7 million in 2019. 

However, Reed said that at the same time the number of people applying for roles had fallen.

Citing figures from November 2021 for example — during which the website received over 300,000 jobs posts — each role received an average of six applicants. In November 2019, a role received an average of 13 applicants. 

“There are more jobs, but there are fewer people looking. That’s either because they’ve already moved or because they’re uncertain about moving,” Reed told Insider. 

Lifestyle choices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were partly driving what Reed terms the ‘great flirtation’, with high levels of burnout and large numbers of people being furloughed contributing to changes in people’s approach to employment and job-seeking.  More people are deciding they want to work more dynamically, reduce their hours or retire early, he said.

Reed said that it’s not entirely clear how long people could afford those lifestyle driven changes, because at the same time the cost of living is increasing along with rising interest rates, fuel prices and taxes. 

“There’s a tension, isn’t there, between sort of lifestyle choices and financial necessity,” he said. 

Reed’s data is reflected on a national level in the latest release from the Office For National Statistics, which showed total UK job vacancies reached a record 1.24 million between October and December 2021.

Although the rate of vacancy growth is starting to slow — like in the US — the disparity between open positions and applicants shows signs of persisting into 2022, Reed’s data suggests. There were over 32,000 jobs posted onto the site within 24 hours on the first working day of 2022. This is typically the busiest day for recruitment websites, but Tuesday 4, January was a new record. 

There are currently over 270,000 jobs listed on, a 10% increase on 2019, the company said.

The pandemic will have long term impacts on the world of work

There will be aspects of the current climate that will endure, said Reed.

Companies and workers have realized the potential of greater flexibility and working from home, on both productivity and wellbeing. 

Many employers might also change the way they recruit workers, with a tighter labor market meaning more prepared to take on more of the burden of training staff, rather than insisting they have a prerequisite amount of experience. 

Are you looking for work, or delaying a return to work? Contact this journalist on 


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