By Daniel Hunter

The number of advertised job vacancies rose to its highest level in two years in September, as employer confidence returns to the UK economy, according to the latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk.

There were 710,859 advertised job vacancies in September, 3.3% higher than in September last year, and 1.7% higher than in August. It was the second month in a row in which vacancies have increased.

As the number of jobs on offer increased, competition for vacancies has fallen to a two-year low. There were 1.9 jobseekers per vacancy in September, down from 2.3 jobseekers per vacancy in September 2012. Competition for jobs has now fallen in every month of 2013 bar January.

The latest ONS statistics show that unemployment fell by the fastest rate in 16 years between August and September, with 7.7% of the economically active population out of work. With vacancies increasing and competition for jobs easing, the outlook is bright for jobseekers. It’s the strongest sign yet that the unemployment rate will hit 7.0% sooner than the Bank of England predicts.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, explains: “The labour market is turning a corner. This month witnessed the fastest fall in unemployment for 16 years. As we speak, employers are opening up new vacancies, as they invest in more staff to meet growing demand, fuelled by increased consumer spending. This has had a knock-on effect for job hunters. The relentless competition for new vacancies is beginning to ease, and there are more roles to choose from.”

The average advertised salary grew 0.6% between August and September, to £34,005 p.a., the second consecutive monthly rise. But there remains a long way to go before real-term wages return to their full strength. The average advertised salary is 0.3% lower than in September 2012. In real terms, pay has fallen £1,020 in a year, as inflation has further devalued the average annual pay-packet.

Andrew Hunter explains: “The fall in real wages remains a black spot on an otherwise optimistic picture. It’s great to see salary increases, but there is still a way to go before this will close the gap of inflation, which has been outpacing wage growth ever since the financial crisis.”

Ian Brinkley, director of the Work Foundation, remarks: “The economy is generating large numbers of full time jobs, but those without skills, the young, and those living in economically depressed areas will still struggle. Many of those in work are seeing little or no wage growth. But there are cities where recovery is firmly based and occupations which buck the trend on wages. The faster these pockets of prosperity spread, the more likely recovery will be sustained.”

While competition for jobs has fallen across the board, the demand has been driven among more highly skilled occupations, rather than new starters. The graduate market remains intensely competitive, with more than 50 grads competing for every job in September.

Graduate salaries have fallen for four months in a row with the average salary standing at £25,355 p.a. in September, down 3.4% year-on-year. In real-terms, graduate salaries have fallen by £1,547, or 17% in the last twelve months.

IT, Engineering and Construction jobs have seen the biggest wage improvements over the last 12 months. Salaries in these sectors have risen by 6.9%, 3.2% and 3.1% p.a. respectively.

In terms of vacancies, some of the highest performing sectors were Manufacturing and Logistics. The Manufacturing sector — a key indicator of economic health — grew 6% month-on-month. Vacancies in the Logistics sector grew 1% in the month to September, and were significantly higher year-on-year.

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