As the coronavirus crisis continues, hiring data is emerging that paints a mixed picture for U.K. tech, which, in the preceding months and years has been stuck on a growth trajectory of up and to the right. That appears to have changed almost over night.
According to numbers shared exclusively with TechCrunch from job sites Adzuna (which also powers the U.K. government’s “Find a job” service and provides data to No. 10) and WorkinStartups, tech hiring activity amongst 100 of the U.K.’s top tech companies has fallen 31% in the last month. Furthermore, over 25,000 job vacancies across the tech sector as a whole have been lost between March and April.
In addition, more than 50% of those companies have dialled back on hiring, while a number of unicorns have furloughed staff. The result is that there are now thought to be 38 job seekers on average per available job — the most competitive for each vacancy U.K. tech has been since the 2008 financial crisis.
“The biggest takeaway from the data for me, is the fact that the majority of tech companies across Europe are extremely anxious about the current economic climate and even those with ‘war chests’ of VC cash or unicorn status are laying off or furloughing employees, as well as simply not posting new vacancies,” Adzuna co-founder Andrew Hunter tells me.
In terms of the speed at which the hiring picture appears to be changing, Hunter uses the Lenin quote “there are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen,” and says the world is moving at “500 miles an hour at the moment”.
“Yes, I am surprised at how quickly the job market picture has changed in the last few weeks,” he adds. “U.K unemployment might well double this month and the number of open vacancies have halved. The compound effect of this is going to hurt”.
The study also shows significant variation in hiring behaviour company by company. For example, according to the data, Airbnb, Google, and Facebook have all evidently scaled back European hiring efforts. Other scale-ups, such as Habito, Treatwell, and Carwow appear to have paused recruitment altogether, likely reflecting the challenges that proptech and mobility is currently facing.
Two fintech unicorn outliers are TransferWise with 45 live vacancies, and Revolut with 324 live vacancies, as the two companies seem to be hiring at the same or similar levels to pre-coronavirus crisis. Unsurprisingly, subscription delivery services Gousto, Hellofresh and Oddbox are all scaling up efforts to bring on new employees after likely seeing an uptick in product demand. Amazon (1,000+ live vacancies), and Deliveroo (100+ live vacancies), have also ramped up hiring.
“My sense is that larger companies like Monzo… have furloughed staff with the view that it’s better to take action now, rather than suffer death by a thousand cuts over the coming months or be forced to take more drastic action in the summer,” says Hunter.
“The vast majority of sub 100 staff tech companies are in a very different situation. This is ‘survive or die’ territory for them – hiring freezes and furloughing are a necessity, not a luxury. Fundamentally, the complete uncertainty around how long this will last means any startup with any doubt around their funding position for the next 6-12 months is going on the offensive. Battening down the hatches and pausing non-core innovation appears to be the M.O. for the moment”.
According to the study, marketing, social media and I.T. sales jobs in tech companies have been the hardest hit, with advertised vacancies dropping over 60% month-on-month. Unsurprisingly, tech companies operating within the hospitality and travel sectors have, in the majority of cases, all but paused recruitment, according to the data.
In contrast, Engineering jobs have weathered the storm the best, with hiring for C++, Java, Ruby and PHP developers down only 20%.
“I think there are a few different factors at play and this is driving the decision making,” says Hunter. “What’s your cash runway, are you able to control your burn rate, what is the likelihood that your sector will bounce back in the next 3-6 months? etc. So funding and cash discipline certainly plays a part. If I was running a travel booking startup right now, even if I had a healthy looking bank balance, I would be planning for the worst”.
Meanwhile, Hunter points out that nobody really knows when the crisis will be over, forcing VCs, CEOs and founders to “hedge” as best as they can, and try to plan for the recovery and the likely upside that will come with it.
“This will not be a v-shaped economic recovery, but those that can be well positioned for the start of the economic comeback will likely grow the fastest and gain the most market share. That’s why we’re still seeing those who haven’t seen much immediate impact on their 1-2 year plan push on and try and take advantage of the opportunities potentially available. I think it was Ayrton Senna who said ‘You can not overtake 15 cars in sunny weather…. but you can when it’s raining’”.