Insight: Spotlight on data

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the importance of data to the fore, not only for public health but also for recruiters and employers

Data’s star has been on a continual rise in recent years, but it grew in importance and prominence in 2020 when Covid-19 struck. All of a sudden, data was on our screens and on our minds all the time – and it hasn’t stopped.

“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of data, both in terms of tracking the severity of the pandemic, and revealing the areas and sectors that need most help,” says Andrew Hunter, co-founder of the UK-based job search engine Adzuna. 

“But it has also increased appetite for statistics more widely. Once the preserve of data scientists and statisticians, the public is now used to seeing rolling seven-day averages, week-on-week comparisons and trends in growth and decline as regular news features, with infection, hospitalisation and death rate statistics becoming key touchpoints for ‘how the country is doing’.”

Vacancy data

Since 2017, Adzuna has provided data on job vacancies to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Then in April 2020, Adzuna also became the feed for the ONS’ new, real-time national job vacancy index. This new index is a key part of the ONS’ weekly ‘faster indicators’ report, giving an in-depth study of the current UK job market, and the economic and social impact of Covid-19. 

“It means we can produce a weekly measure of vacancies, with a time lag of about six days,” says David Freeman, head of labour market and households at the ONS. “Normally it’s four to six weeks with our survey data, so it’s great to be able to get data out so quickly.”

Vacancies are one of the leading indicators of employment and unemployment trends, and the Adzuna feed highlights important hiring data across all industry sectors. It includes all of the UK, and the data can be used to pinpoint which industries and geographies are reporting a strong or increasing demand and which are sluggish or declining. 

“For example, we’re able to quickly see the impact of restrictions such as the recent three-tier lockdown system on local jobs markets and vulnerable sectors,” says Hunter. “At the time of writing, we’ve already tracked a significant fall in hospitality and catering job postings since the restrictions were announced two weeks ago [22 October].”

Data has to be based on reliable sources with reliable methods

A wide range of organisations and individuals use the ONS data as a decision-making tool, with the government being one of the ONS’ biggest customers. Recruiters can use the data to keep up-to-date with the latest labour market trends. “It can give recruiters a better picture of the overall market and where to focus their resources,” says Freeman. “It’s exciting to think this is helping recruiters to make better decisions and helping people get jobs.”

Freeman says the new Index was precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic but actually feeds into the ONS’ long-term strategy of using a variety of different data sources to improve how it monitors the economy. The important thing, he says, is to make sure any data used is credible. “It has to be based on reliable sources with reliable methods.” 

Data sources

Adzuna pools its data from various sources – job sites, recruitment portals and XML feeds from companies. “For those sites too small (or too busy) to give us XML/API access, we behave very much like Google and crawl the web for the most up-to-date listings from thousands of sites we find, or our users suggest,” says Hunter. 

In July 2019, the government published its National Data Strategy, part of a drive to encourage data-driven decision making in every part of the economy. Adzuna has worked directly with the government on technology and data insights since 2013, when it built ‘The Number 10 Dashboard’, a data insights iPad app that was created to help the government make better decisions. It also runs Find a Job, the Department of Work and Pensions’ digital jobseeking service. 

Hunter says data is now at the heart of everything. “Now, more than ever, it is critical that we make well-informed, data-driven decisions at all levels of society. Adzuna’s role in all of this is to provide recent, clear and statistically significant recruitment data points to both the government and the ONS.”

Power Points

  1. Adzuna provides live data insights from over 50,000 British employers, giving a weekly update of hiring activity across all sectors in the UK. 
  2. It gives the ONS an XML feed of over 500,000 real time job ads, including data on geography, category, company and salary. The Index includes 95% of all available jobs in the UK. 
  3. Adzuna has over 10m monthly jobseekers visiting the platform every month

Image credit | iStock

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