The labour market statistics published last week make interesting reading. These statistics showed the largest quarterly rise in redundancies since 2009, as well as an increase in unemployment levels.

In contrast, there was also the first month-on-month increase in the number of payrolled employees since the start of the pandemic, and a large quarterly increase in the number of vacancies.

But the impact of the pandemic has not been universal – impacting more on the labour market status of particular age & demographic groups. 

Employment levels for those aged 16-24 and 65+ have fallen by 378,000 – significantly higher than for people outside these age brackets.

Workers from a BAME background, women and disabled workers have been most negatively economically impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

For example, 15% of workers in sectors which have shut down because of the coronavirus are from a BAME ethnic background, compared to 12% of all workers; 57% are women, compared to a workforce average of 48%, and nearly 50% are under 35 years old. Low paid workers are more likely to work in shut down sectors and less likely to be able to work from home.

Some shut down sectors have an especially high proportion of workers from a minority ethnic group. Workers from a minority ethnic group make up 28% of the vulnerable jobs in the transport sector and 16% of the vulnerable jobs in the accommodation and food service sector.

This means that – as unemployment continues to rise - we’re going to see a higher proportion of active jobseekers being from these groups.

How do employers view this? Whilst many organisations actively recruiting recognise that this is a real opportunity to rebalance their workforce by hiring from more diverse backgrounds, the reality is that many are struggling to cope with the volume of applicants – with examples of  recent campaigns for entry level staff receiving ten times the usual levels of applications!

Sadly the answer for some is to merely increase the selection criteria – leading to a disproportionately high of diverse applicants being screened out at early stages.

So what’s the answer? Yes – look to automation and technology to help streamline processes – but don’t increase adverse impact by putting in place clumsy and – worse – unnecessary barriers.

In a couple of years it’ll be interesting to look back and see who really used this situation to reframe their recruitment and who missed the boat.