THE number of job vacancies available around Swindon has plummeted because of the coronavirus crisis, new figures suggest.

The Institute for Employment Studies collected data from online job search engine Adzuna which revealed that the amount of jobs on offer fell by more than half since the start of lockdown and more than three quarters since this time last year.

There were 799 job vacancies in Swindon on June 14. This is 52 percent fewer than on March 15, the date the IES used as the benchmark for pre-crisis vacancy levels, and 85 per cent lower than in June 2019.

The think tank compared the vacancy data to Office for National Statistics figures on the number of people claiming work-related benefits, such as Jobseekers Allowance and some forms of Universal Credit.

It found there were around 13 claimants per vacancy in Swindon in May - up from two in March and higher than the UK average of nine people chasing every listed job.

But the ONS has cautioned that changes to Universal Credit made because of the virus mean more people could get help while still being employed.

Swindon Jobcentre manager Julie Marshall said: “Vacancies have dropped a lot. Through April, there were only jobs available for key workers in supermarkets, cleaners and deliveries, and the construction sector has stayed strong.

"Employers are still being very cautious and getting the confidence to start moving forward again once they have more information about what they can do.

"Before the pandemic, there was strong performance from self-employed people and their businesses, but they have been hit hard by lockdown.

"There is a light at the end of the tunnel because more employers are starting to contact us and we are seeing more listings on job sites."

Institute for Employment Studies director Tony Wilson said: “This crisis has affected all parts of the economy, but it’s clear that it is hitting some places harder than others.

“Many of these areas were struggling before this crisis began and are in even more trouble now. We need to be doing much more both to support employment demand in the short term and in the longer-term to support new industries and jobs.”

Across the country, the number of vacancies plunged to 367,000 on June 14 – 55 per cent lower than the 820,000 jobs advertised before the virus rocked the economy.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which funded the research, said the government must focus on mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic as the economy reopens if it wants to follow through on its “levelling up” agenda and reduce regional inequalities.

Dave Innes, the foundation’s head of economics, said: “To make this ambition a reality, we need sustained investment in jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country, as well as a social security system that supports people when they need it.”

Employment minister Mims Davies said: “We know it’s a challenging jobs market for many at the moment and some sectors have been hit particularly hard.

“That’s why we’ve taken unprecedented action to support our economy during this emergency, protecting millions of jobs and thousands of businesses through the furlough scheme, grants, loans and tax cuts.”

She added that levelling up opportunity will be “at the heart of the revival” of the economy.