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The Future of Work: 2020 year in review and forecasting 2021

The future of work and employment trends. Try as we might, who could have predicted the year we have had. 

As we approach the end of 2020, we can say that this year has been nothing like the one we had anticipated. This year has brought many challenges and sacrifices, along with big changes to the way we work and live, challenging us to reassess our priorities and adapt. 

Some of the changes we have experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to become the new normal and will impact different industry sectors in different ways - some for the better and some unfortunately not. While there is light at the end of the tunnel in terms of potential vaccines, treatments and restrictions expected to be lifted by late spring 2021, what does all this mean for the jobs market and the future of work?

The jobs market in 2020

We started the year emerging from a steady 2019 and based on employment trends, we were predicting the overall number of job opportunities to continue to rise across all sectors without exception. 

Data reports from Emsi a labour market analytics firm1 show that there were an estimated 1.8 million unique job vacancies posted between January 2019 and October 2019. This year, there were an estimated 439,000 less unique job vacancies posted between January 2020 and October 2020, bringing the estimated total unique job vacancies down to less than 1.4 million for the 2020 year ending at October 2020.

What does this mean?

These figures provide a snapshot overview of the demand for workers across all sectors, UK regions and contract types (permanent and temporary). They cannot represent the definitive number of vacancies as there are many ways that jobs can be advertised and positions can be filled, it does however show the overarching trend.

With over 400,000 fewer job vacancies posted and an estimated 164,000 job losses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic3, there’s an estimated 318,000 more people unemployed now than in 2019.4

These are not comfortable statistics to read but be assured, we are seeing pockets of new jobs coming through. We have hundreds of vacancies on our website spanning all sectors including vacancies for the NHS Test and Trace service, IKEA and a well-known supermarket brand. See the latest opportunities here.

What sectors have the most opportunities? 

The sectors with the highest number of both permanent and temporary job vacancies throughout the UK between January and October 2020 include:

  • Driving (including LGV Drivers and Van Drivers) with over 200,000  jobs posted.
  • Warehousing (including Packers, Bottlers, Canners, Fillers and Fork-lift Truck Drivers) with over 160,000 jobs posted.
  • Cleaning (including General Cleaners, Head Cleaners and Bathroom Cleaners) with over 50,000 jobs posted.

Driving, Transport and Logistics sector

The Driving industry has fared relatively well throughout the pandemic and current salaries appear to reflect this when compared to salaries at October 2019. Delivery Driver jobs are advertising a median annual salary of £2,176 more than in 2019.

Why has the Transport and Logistics sector seen a salary uplift?

Online shopping doubled! In June 2020 the online share of grocery purchasing was estimated to be double what it was in 2019.5 What would have taken years to come to fruition, instead happened overnight as the pandemic hit and lockdown ensued across the UK. Tesco reported a 1000% uplift in traffic5 to its website in the first national lockdown.

This has a knock-on effect to the Transport and Logistics industry, as demand calls for Drivers across all segments to keep up with the restocking of warehouses and door-to-door deliveries. 

Hospitality and Catering sector

By far the hardest hit sector alongside leisure travel is the Hospitality and Catering sector, salaries have suffered a significant decrease this year. Executive Chef jobs have been advertising a median annual salary of £5,504 less than in 2019 and Waiters/Waitress job vacancies have been showing median annual salary of £1,280 less than in 2019. 

Why has the Hospitality and Catering sector seen such a decrease in salaries?

Around 80% of Hospitality outlets stopped trading in April resulting in 1.4 million workers furloughed - the highest of any sector.6

The government-led Eat Out to Help Out scheme went some way to assist those working in the Hospitality industry, seeing Hospitality staff enjoy a sudden uptake in shift availability as restaurants opened their doors to customers once again, serving 64 million discounted meals across the scheme period7 however this has only been a short reprieve with ongoing disruption through restrictions in to the new year.

Warehouse sector

Similar to the Transport and Logistics industry, the Warehouse sector has fared relatively well this year. Online shopping orders for consumer items, especially as we lead up to Christmas will put additional pressure on Warehouse staff to keep up with the demand. 

We already have over 100 live job vacancies for this sector on our website, but more hands make lighter work so there is likely to be a surge in opportunities in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on our Warehouse jobs for upcoming exciting opportunities with IKEA.

Additional to the usual seasonal demand at this time of year, there are all new opportunities that have emerged from the pandemic. The NHS Test and Trace service will see more opportunities over the coming months, and we will be recruiting various roles such as Warehouse Operative, Warehouse Lead, Sample Handler, Supervisor and Trainee Lab Technician, within Leamington Spa and various other UK locations.  

Office Sector

Some people working in Call Centre roles were able to convert to home and hybrid working practices throughout the lockdown period, despite this the number of job vacancies posted declined by over 290,000 between January and October 2020 when compared with the same period in 2019. 

The Office role with the most opportunities in 2020 was Administrator with over 160,000 posted job vacancies between January and October 2020.

As part of the pandemic response Capita required 2,156 temporary workers to fill Call Handler roles in May and June this year, 1,500 of these workers were needed to be in their roles within just 15 days. You can read the full story here.

Thank you to the 2,156 temporary workers who embraced new ways of working to support Capita on this crucial role in the fight against COVID-19. Take a look here at the current job opportunities available and that are conducive to the new world of remote working.

Looking ahead and what can we expect from 2021?

Going into 2021 we can expect it to be slow going for the worst hit industries to recover, some predictions suggest it won’t be until 2022 that we start to see the Hospitality industry gaining some traction. 

How we live and work in this changed world could have the biggest influence on sector performance over the next year. A hybrid of home and office working will continue to be more prevalent than ever before, leading to a fall in commuter traffic and public transport usage. 

Jobs in the traditional Retail sector may be the next sector to be badly affected, as the shift from traditional bricks and mortar stores to online shopping endures and rising unemployment and weaker pay growth affects consumers’ ability and willingness to spend.

While this could be the case in the months to come, right now we have over 100 Retail job vacancies on our website including opportunities for Call Handlers, Shelf Replenishers and Car Park Marshals so if you are looking for work in the Retail sector don’t want until after Christmas, apply now. 

Preparing for employment in 2021

If your ability to earn a living has been impacted during this year, we hope that the opportunities we bring to you offer at least some opportunity to continue earning and perhaps even discover a new line of work offering at least some resilience during major economic disruption.

Where will there be opportunities for work?

At the beginning of 2020 our blog ‘Employment News for 2020’ mentioned that employment news indicated that the bulk of hiring in 2020 will be done within the Life Sciences, (the scientific study of life and organisms. Jobs include Clinical Research, Scientist, Pharmacist and Research Assistant) Human Resources and Construction & Property. 

This prediction was impacted due to COVID-19 but continues to offer the greater glimmers of hope for future growth outside of the healthcare industry. Infrastructure also offers some longer-term opportunities; we featured the enormous scale of recruitment for 10,000 new job roles with CityFibre who have a goal to bring full fibre internet to 8 million premises in over 60 cities across the UK. 

These exciting, new job opportunities in the Engineering industry were and still are, open to everyone. Read more and register your interest here.

CityFibre has also announced a three-year recruitment and training programme, through which they specifically intend to change current employment trends by attracting those who are out of work due to COVID-19 or those looking to gain new skills through a new opportunity to change careers. 

Important skills for work in 2021

The transferable skills you gain in employment are an important consideration when we are mapping compatibility for potential job opportunities. There are some jobs that may on the face of it seem unrelated, however call upon similar skill sets - for example there is a strong correlation between the skills utilised in Call Centre and Customer Service roles and those utilised in Underwriting, Stock Control and Finance roles. 

As unlikely as it may seem, there is also a strong correlation between the skills used in Catering Assistant roles and those used in Stock Replenishment roles so be sure to consider the Retail job opportunities on our Retail Jobs area.

With thousands of jobs posted every day on job boards and social media, it can be challenging to really focus on what skills you have that can be offered up for new or different lines of work. We’d like to give a recommendation of a fantastic social enterprise called Stay Nimble who offer guidance and support along with access to thousands of free online training materials, aimed at helping people in exactly the situation many thousands have found themselves in this year.

You can also find lots of advice and tips in our career guides, not to mention our amazing team of Recruitment Specialists who whilst not working from their usual branch offices are still one phone call away if you need help and advice, find your nearest branch here.

Whatever you do, don’t worry about your career path looking a little confused on your CV. A change in course during a pandemic is much easier to explain than a large, long-term gap in your employment. Unless illness, care commitments or shielding have created the gaps in your work history, minimising them as much as possible says a lot about you as a person to your prospective employers.

Thank you and Merry Christmas! 

I would like to close out this final Caree blog for 2020 with a resounding thank you for your astonishing support throughout this challenging year. Each and every member of our community, from Catering, to Driving and Warehouse, through to Office, you have all represented Blue Arrow with solidarity, professionalism and positivity in the face of adversity and uncertainty. For this and so much more - Thank you. We wish you all a prosperous and safer 2021!

All the Blue Arrow team.

Other helpful resources

There are many jobseeker resources on our Blue Arrow website that will help you on your job-hunting quest:

New funding for National Careers Service

We have one last handy tip close out the year - Under the Plan for Jobs Scheme, the UK government will provide an additional £32 million in funding over the next two years for the National Careers Service so that 269,000 more people in England can receive personalised advice on training and work. 

Make the most of the opportunity and contact the National Career Service to get advice and assistance on everything from job search through to skills training.

  • Text - Text your name and the word ADVICE to 07766 413219. An adviser will call you back for free.
  • Face-to-face - Call 0800 100 900 to find out if you're eligible for a face-to-face appointment with an adviser.
  • Phone -Call 0800 100 900 to speak to an adviser. Lines are open from 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week. Calls are free from landlines and most mobile numbers.

Where next? 

You can keep up to date with the latest blogs, industry news, information, tips, tricks, jobs and advice by subscribing to one of our newsletters.  


1 Labour Market Statistics (Emsi) Document | Summary of Jobs Market Intelligence |Blue Arrow Circulated November 2020 |Accessed November 2020 | https://www.economicmodeling.com/

3 The Office for National Statistics [Internet] Accessed November 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/ 

4 The Office for National Statistics [Internet] Accessed November 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/latest 

5 The Grocer [Internet] George Nott | Published June 2020 | Accessed November 2020. https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/power-list/the-power-list-2020-online-shopping/645119.article 

6 Office for National Statistics [Internet] ONS Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey (BICS) results. BICS Wave 3: 6 April to 19 April 2020 | Accessed November 2020. HMRC, Statistical Bulletin, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Official Statistics – 11 June 2020 Release, Resolution Foundation: the full Monty 

7 HM Revenue and Customs [Internet] August 2020 | Accessed November 2020. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/over-64-million-meals-claimed-for-as-eat-out-to-help-out-enters-fourth-week 

8 The Boutique Hotelier [Internet] November 2020 | Accessed November 2020   https://www.boutiquehotelier.com/500000-hospitality-job-losses-since-january/#:~:text=The%20hotel%20sector%20was%20most,when%20compared%20to%20last%20year.

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