Europe’s labour market is steadily recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Cedefop’s Skills OVATE tool, which tracks trends in jobs and skills using online job advertisements (OJAs), shows that, after the first shock in the second quarter of 2020, the number of OJAs grew steadily.

In the last quarter of 2021, it was almost three times higher compared to the pre-pandemic period. And, while there was some slowdown of the OJA market observed in the first half of 2022, the overall figures are still more than twice as high compared to the same period of 2019.

Figure 1: OJA trend (2019-22 quarters, in millions)

Cedefop's Skills OVATE OJA trend 2019-22

Source: Skills OVATE. Own calculations.

A mix of factors were likely driving OJA trends:

  • The teleworking arrangements introduced by many employers in response to social distancing measures contributed significantly to changing of recruitment practices. Online recruitment – not only OJAs, but also online interviews that follow them – has become more common.
  • Unemployment remains exceptionally low across Europe. It has fallen significantly below pre-pandemic and even pre-financial crisis (2008) levels. Many employers continue experiencing difficulties in attracting talent and have started advertising jobs more intensively, using the power of the internet to reach candidates in their region, nationally and internationally.
  • The favourable job market conditions encourage many employees to search for better job opportunities elsewhere, increasing job turnover and leading employers to publish more vacancies and to keep more vacancies open for longer.

Cedefop expert Jiri Branka notes that 'None of these major trends influencing online job advertising is directly linked to new jobs creation. While OJAs have been considered a possible leading indicator of future employment developments, shifts in recruitment and job-search practices appear to (at least temporarily) decouple job posting and employment trends post COVID-19. The OJA trend is more aligned to new hires (people who became recently newly employed).'

Figure 2: Change in OJAs and employment, index measures (Q1 2020 = 100)

Change in OJAs and employment

*Recently employed refers to the number of people who took employment in the last 3 months.

Source: Skills OVATE and Labour Force Survey. Own calculations.

Manual, medium and even low-skilled jobs account for the lion share in the growth of OJAs. While over half of OJAs (54%) were for office and high-skilled jobs (science and engineering, business and administration, ICT, social and legal), the growth in online job advertising is clearly driven by manufacturing, construction, and maintenance jobs. Manufacturing labourers, cleaners and helpers, drivers and plant operators are among the fastest-growing occupations. The pandemic also increased online search for and recruitment of medical professionals, who were previously mostly recruited via other channels.

Figure 3: Change in occupational composition of OJAs

Change in occupational composition of OJAs

Source: Skills OVATE. Own calculations.

Changes in types of skills demanded appear less profound. Work attitudes and values – such as adaptability, responsibility, or coping with pressure – remain the most sought-after qualities. At the higher end of the job market, management, finance, marketing, and sales skills became more prominent. Demand for digital skills grew slightly less, but they remained important. Designing and creative skills, as well as leadership skills also grew in importance, while demand for skills related to serving and attending people, and perhaps surprisingly also for skills related to electro-engineering trades, increased more slowly. The latter does not necessarily mean that such skills are less sought after. With substantial skills shortages in the care and technical sectors, employers might have changed their approach to marketing their workplaces, placing more emphasis on employability skills and less on the skills most jobseekers would expect to be part of the job.

Figure 4: Skill demand in OJAs (order of most demanded skill groups)

Skill demand in OJAs

Source: Skills OVATE. Own calculations.

Note for figures 3 and 4: ‘Before COVID-19’ covers period of 2019 to Q1-2020, while ‘COVID-19 and recovery’ concerns data from Q2 2020 until Q2 2022.

Skills OVATE now includes data up to June 2022. Previous reports and analysis using the OJA data can be found here.