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How has Lockdown changed the job market?

Whether you’re returning to work, searching for a new role, or recently furloughed, we take a detailed look at the state of the job market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Job Market

As we draw closer to the midway point of 2020, we can all reflect on what an unusual year it’s been so far. The lockdown has changed our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined back in January. But as the weeks of lockdown have rolled by, we’re becoming used to a new normal. So, as the global economy starts moving again and people return to work, what do we know about what’s changed in the job market during lockdown? 

We take a closer look at the overall picture in the labour market, what’s changed in how we work, and how certain industries are faring during this unprecedented time.

 The big picture 

The UK declared a lockdown on March 23. For many of us, this meant we couldn’t go to work as we normally would. During the uncertainty, people were left wondering what this meant for their jobs. Thankfully, the UK government launched their furlough scheme on April 20, paying 80% of people’s wages if they couldn’t work. 

Recent figures show that, as of May 24, some 8.4 million jobs have been furloughed since the scheme launched. Although some people are starting to return to work, many will continue to rely on the scheme. This incentive has been extended through to October (with some alterations).  

Although the furlough scheme has brought relief to many people, there has also been a surge in unemployment. Around 856,500 people signed up for benefits such as universal credit and jobseeker’s allowance in April, an increase of 69%. 

There have been similar trends across the global job market during lockdown. The US, in particular, has been badly hit, with nearly 1 in 4 Americans claiming unemployment benefits. Additionally, recruiters in many countries have seen a significant decline in hiring activity since the pandemic began. 

All of this makes for somewhat grim reading. But it’s not all bad news. Some industries are still hiring, people are slowly returning to work, and government schemes exist to support workers. 

Hiring in a pandemic

One of the biggest changes to the job market during lockdown is the way companies are approaching recruitment. Companies are still looking to fill vacancies during this hectic time. However, current social distancing measure makes traditional means of hiring more challenging. 

Despite the current hurdles, businesses are finding ways of hiring new staff. The process just looks a little different now. So, if you are searching for a new job, here are some of the ways you might interview for the role given the current circumstances: 

  • Telephone interviews. Although a popular first step of the recruitment process before coronavirus, it’s become even more prevalent recently. It’s a good way of initially gauging whether you’re the right fit for the role. 
  • Video interviews. During lockdown, many of us have been using video calls to keep in touch with loved ones. Platforms like Zoom can also be a great way of conducting an interview. It’s a useful replacement for face-to-face and panel interviews. 
  • Online tests. Tests are a fairly common part of the recruitment process. While in-person assessments aren’t possible right now, companies are turning to online solutions instead. They can be a great way of proving your credentials when applying for a job. 

Remote working 

Technology is rapidly changing the way we live and work. One of the saving graces of the coronavirus pandemic is that many people have been able to work remotely. At the height of lockdown, those who were able to work from home were asked to do so. 

Although this way of remote working was new to many of us, it’s actually a trend that’s been emerging for a while. In 2019, Airbnb’s Future of Work report revealed that 77% of UK workers think being able to work remotely is important. 

There are studies to back up the merits of this way of working, too. The American Psychology Association found that workers who had the ability to work remotely were more satisfied with their jobs and more productive. 

So, whether you’re in work or applying for new roles, the job market during lockdown certainly has a focus on working from home. For many, this added flexibility is a great addition. But there are certainly pitfalls. It can be hard to set boundaries and not overwork. Plus, the lack of human interaction can be difficult for many. 

The industries hit the hardest

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted the job market, both in the UK and internationally. Across the UK in April, advertised vacancies were 49% lower than they were the previous year. But some industries have been hit particularly hard. 

Between lockdown and social distancing measures, it’s not surprising that some sectors have been hit worse than others. Even with government support, the pressure has been immense on some businesses. It’s hard to quantify exactly which industry has been hit the hardest. But a combination of lost revenues and fewer jobs is clear across many. This includes: 

Hospitality and leisure

With mandatory closures and social distancing in place, the hospitality and leisure industry has been hit particularly badly. If you think of things like hotels, pubs, travel, and sport, it’s not hard to see why. 

According to one report, small- and medium-sized businesses in the sector lost an average of 54% of their monthly business income. 


The manufacturing industry in the UK has seen its worst slump in nearly 30 years. Areas such as new orders, employment, and overall output have all rapidly declined. Figures show that jobs in the industry are down 58% since the start of the lockdown. 

Again, lockdown restrictions have meant that places like factories and some warehouses haven’t been able to open.

Food and drink 

With the closure of bars, pubs and restaurants, the food and drink industry is another that has felt the impact of the lockdown. Although people are eating more at home, out-of-home consumption has all but halted. Businesses in this industry traditionally rely on money coming from people eating out, which has been impossible during lockdown. 


At the height of lockdown, it seemed like nearly the entire country had come to a standstill. And, with a decrease in transportation and trade across the globe, the demand for energy went down. Estimates suggest that this decline was around 18-25% per week

As well as a decrease in demand for energy, jobs in the UK also declined significantly. Some figures suggest there are 73% fewer advertised vacancies in this industry.  


As all non-essential shops were closed from the start of lockdown, it’s little surprise to see the retail industry hit so hard. Job vacancies declined nearly 80% during April. On top of that, chains such as Debenhams, Laura Ashley, and Cath Kidston have all gone into administration since the start of lockdown. 

The industries that aren’t hit as hard

Although things may seem pretty bleak at the moment, there are always positives to be found in times of crisis. Despite the current climate, there are some industries where the job market during lockdown is thriving. 

Many of these areas have seen either a demand for new staff or an increase in demand for services. Often, these sectors already had much of the infrastructure to deal with the crisis caused by the pandemic. 

As companies across the country (and the world) adjust to a new normal, we’ve outlined some industries that have recently seen increased demand. We’ve also picked out some ways you can think about getting involved in these areas:


Now, more than ever, we appreciate how vital our healthcare systems are. The people working throughout the NHS and other healthcare services continue to prove how vital they are. And the healthcare job market during lockdown is further proof of this. 

Data shows that only 9% of employees in health and social work were furloughed. Similarly, only around 10% of jobs in the industry were at risk, compared to an average of 24%. Only those in the IT and water supply, sewage and waste industries had a smaller proportion. 

Of course, there are many different areas of the healthcare industry. If you’re thinking of entering the field, you can find all kinds of courses that will help develop your knowledge. If you’re interested in learning about the coronavirus outbreak, for example, you could take our course on COVID-19

We even have a course on managing COVID-19 in primary care. This three-week course is led by experts at St George’s University of London. It helps keep existing healthcare professionals up-to-date with the latest advice related to the virus.

Discover healthcare courses


Health and wellbeing have never been more important than they are right now. This need is also reflected in the boom of the home wellness industry. While many of us have been stuck at home during lockdown, we’ve looked to apps, online fitness classes, and other social wellness opportunities to stay healthy. 

According to an expert from the Global Wellness Institute, people stuck inside were desperate for company. As such, people have been searching for collaborative videos including ‘with me’ in the title at a greater rate than ever. 

People in the UK have been buying a range of fitness equipment, such as yoga mats and kettlebells. Similarly, the popular meditation app Headspace experienced a 19-fold jump in users taking a calming exercise. Evidently, the need to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, is resulting in a boom in the wellness job market during lockdown. 

You can learn about why mindfulness and wellbeing are such important tools during times of crisis. You can take a variety of courses that can help with things like stress, sleep, eating, and overall wellbeing.

Explore mindfulness and wellbeing courses

Online education 

At the end of April, an estimated 1.2 billion children across the globe were out of the classroom.  With schools and universities closed, remote learning and online education have become essential. As such, the industry has experienced a surge in popularity. 

Although schools in the UK are gradually starting to open, this shift towards e-learning has shown just how useful technology can be in many different industries. Things like language apps, video conferencing lessons, online learning software, and virtual tutoring have all become popular. 

And it’s not just the students who have turned to online education while they’re out of school. Parents have also been trying to brush up on their knowledge, as they take charge of their children’s at-home education. Learners of all ages can benefit from this method of study, which is why the industry continues to thrive. 

At FutureLearn, we have a wide variety of courses related to online education. For those looking to improve their online learning skills, you’ll find multiple opportunities. If you’re more focused on the teaching side of things, there are many relevant courses, including those about teaching for home learners.

Learn how to teach online


Despite retail sales declining in bricks and mortar stores, the online sector has seen an overall increase in sales. Online orders increased around 200% in the UK during April and the early part of May.  While people are forced to stay home and shops are closed, this comes as little surprise. 

The world of eCommerce brings convenience and efficiency, giving people a huge range of options to choose from. With social distancing measures set to be around for a while, its continued growth seems likely. 

It’s an industry that relies on a wide range of digital marketing skills. There are also all kinds of roles related to eCommerce. You could manage content, write engaging copy, optimise websites for search engines, market on social media, and more. Of course, customer insight and analytics are also essential skills. 

Digital technology is having a huge impact on our lives, and understanding these digital skills in retail can be hugely beneficial for your career.

Discover digital skills 


Pharmaceutical companies are playing a significant role in the pandemic. As well as research into vaccines, there is ongoing research into diagnostics, technologies, and other treatments. According to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, in May, there were over 1,000 clinical trials and more than 150 treatments being tested.

As healthcare systems around the world prepare to deal with the impacts of the virus, the pharmaceuticals job market during COVID-19 has continued to grow. So much so that massive companies such as Gilead and Eli Lilly have seen stock market gains. 

With FutureLearn’s pharmacy courses, you can pursue your interest and improve your knowledge in the area. It’s a vast field, with loads of fascinating subjects. Whether you want to learn about genetics in medicine or the basics of good pharmacy practice, you can find a relevant course. 

Explore pharmacy courses


We’ve mentioned gaming a few times in recent posts. There’s been a surge in popularity across all platforms since the start of the pandemic. A survey conducted in March found that gamers in the UK reported they spent 29% more time playing video games during the quarantine. 

With the entertainment industry hit by closures, people have turned to these forms of at-home entertainment to pass the time. As such, global spending on digital games rose to its highest monthly total ever, a staggering $10 billion. 

That’s not to say the industry hasn’t been impacted by lockdown. Many high-profile releases have been hit by delays, while basically all games conventions and expos have been cancelled.

However, a career in games development could be a rewarding one. Like many other technology-driven industries, the games job market during lockdown has plenty of opportunities. The UK’s indie gaming industry, for example, continues to thrive.

Find game development courses

It’s undoubtedly a strange time for everyone right now. And, with furloughs, unemployment, redundancies, and more, it seems like a difficult time in the job market too. However, there are some glimmers of hope, and as the world takes steps out of lockdown, things will hopefully start to move again. 

Whereas industries such as hospitality, retail, and food and drink have been hit hard, others have thrived. It’s difficult to know when the job market will pick up again, but experts remain hopeful that the UK economy will bounce back reasonably quickly

During this challenging time, technology has played a key role in keeping us all connected. Additionally, it has also changed the way we think about applying for jobs and recruitment. Companies are far more likely to interview remotely, which is one of the big changes we’ve seen in the Job Market During lockdown.

Ultimately, whether you’re currently working or not, there is never a bad time to start learning some new skills. If you have career goals in mind or are just hoping to improve your employability skills, an online course can help.

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