Number of UK PR and marketing job ads at lowest point since Feb 2021

Category: Data Insights

By: Rich Leigh

I’ve a fair amount to say about the PR industry as it stands, but perhaps that can be for another day, as I read and reread that potentially incendiary draft.

For now, I wanted to highlight something I can’t help but feel is important to share.

I’ve had conversations in recent months with established agency founder friends in near and actual tears on the other end of the phone or video call, making difficult decisions and at the same time buying into the unreality of Twitter, as if they’ve all of a sudden become bad at PR.

The world’s biggest PR agency has, at the very least, frozen recruitment and initiated a ‘strategic review’ of its workforce. I’m hearing of widespread industry lay-offs, and more understandably concerned potential clients than ever are holding off until ‘the end of Q1/Q2’. I wanted to understand the bigger picture.

Having seen a few eyebrow-raising recruitment tweets – one recruiter in particular highlighting with surprise quite how many senior marketers they’d just had come onto their books, for instance – I looked at the number of job opportunities in PR, as it stands.

It’s not the only metric of industry health, of course, but an interesting gauge.

I looked at the ONS’ most up-to-date job market data (up to the end of first week of January 2023) downloaded the data set, called the lovely researcher responsible for it to ensure I wasn’t misinterpreting, and created this time series graph, looking at the number of job ads in the UK ‘marketing, advertising and PR’ category.

You weren’t dreaming. Twitter was awash with job ads just last summer, but in times of economic instability and uncertainty, many businesses will drop marketing agencies faster than a bad habit.

Newer and specialist agencies will no doubt buck generalist recruitment need trends, but from an early-2022 high point, you can see a dramatic drop in the number of job ads, especially in the last three months of 2022. As a servicing industry, we’re hit quickly by market nervousness.

The researcher did ask me to point out that job ad numbers tend to be down at the beginning of the year, and there’s nothing to say that they won’t go up in February, but there’s a clear trend there prior to this point. 

The last time job ad numbers were this low, businesses still had furlough support in place (from March 2020 to the end of September 2021).

The data uses 100 as a pre-Covid (February 2020) baseline.

The graph somewhat maps my stress-levels – and perhaps those of many others at all levels of experience and seniority – over the last few years and for that reason alone, I thought it worth pointing out. 

Maybe give your industry friends a call and a hug, as we continue to live and work in this brilliantly unpredictable industry.

(A non-animated version of the image above)

Of the 28 categories (so, excluding ‘unknown’, above), I’ve highlighted those with an index of below 80 (again, 100 is the ‘pre-Covid’ Feb 2020 baseline used by the ONS), giving us the categories most impacted by lower numbers of job ads right now.

They are, in order of most impacted:

  1. Sales – 68.5
  2. Property – 71.1
  3. Healthcare and social care – 74.9
  4. Construction – 75.3
  5. Marketing, advertising and PR – 79.6

Marketing, advertising and PR is fifth on the list of job categories with the fewest job ads in the market right now. This means that, with an index of 79.6, there are 20.4% fewer jobs in the marketing, advertising and PR category that there were in February 2020

The most in-demand job categories right now are:

  1. Other/general – 179.4
  2. Domestic help – 167.4
  3. Wholesale and retail – 143.2
  4. Part time/weekend – 133.2
  5. Facilities and maintenance – 119.2

The best I guess I could hope for from this blog is that it gets passed around internally and privately.

No, you’re not bad at finding a job. No, you haven’t become a bad PR person overnight. The general market is in an odd, nervous place and the data points to it.

If you’re doing well, amazing – I LOVE to see positivity in the industry. But, there’s a lot going on in PR right now.