What is the Labour Market and why does it matter?

What is the Labour Market? It is a term that comes up regularly in a variety of places, including the mainstream media (although sometimes more commonly referred to as ‘the jobs market’), government publications and when speaking to a careers professional, but many people find it understandably tricky to nail down what it really means. If you too are curious about what the Labour Market really looks like and how to use this knowledge to benefit your own career development, then please, read on!

While the Oxford English Dictionary definition of what the Labour Market is looks fairly simple on face value (the availability of employment and labour, in terms of supply and demand e.g. the amount of jobs available vs the amount of people who want a job), the reality is more complex than a straightforward mathematics equation. After all, setting up a business to provide jobs requires following rules set by the government (politics playing its part) and individuals looking for a job have many factors to consider, including their education, geographical location and current challenges like Covid-19.

This is where LMI comes in – LMI stands for both Labour Market Information (data gathered from a variety of official and informal sources that gives us a clearer idea of what is happening in terms of employment in a particular area) and Labour Market Intelligence (the interpretation of this data in order to draw conclusions about current and future trends) and, along with occupational data (e.g. the qualifications/skills you need to get into particular jobs, the average salary or other information you might find on a job profile from the National Careers Service or Prospects websites, for example), it helps us build up a picture of what is happening around us in terms of the world of work. LMI can take many forms, from ‘Hard LMI’ such as live jobs information taken from jobs search engines like Adzuna and Indeed or surveys of what skills employers are looking for from organisations like the Institute of Student Employers, to ‘Soft LMI’ such as reports from local newspapers that provide insights into local businesses or speaking with someone who does a particular job role to get some inside information about what work is like in their industry.

It’s not even necessarily as simple as understanding what’s happening in one location (e.g. the UK), with valuable blogs and resources from sites like Prospects Luminate and Emsi highlighting the differences between regional labour markets and which types of jobs or industries are most common in certain parts of the country.

So, knowing what we know about the Labour Market, how we can put this information to use when thinking about the types of projects, jobs and career pathways we might be interested in exploring in the future? The following questions are a useful starting point:

  • What jobs do people in my network (e.g. friends/family) do? What is work like for them?
  • What jobs/projects do I frequently hear about on the news/television/social media? Are these realistic portrayals or could they be stereotypes?
  • How is Covid-19 affecting the way that people work?
  • What is happening in my local area? What is different than it used to be?
  • What businesses are there in your local area or nearby? What sort of work do they do? 
  • If I am interested in a particular type of job/project/career pathway, are there a lot of opportunities where I live now or would I have to travel?
  • What courses or apprenticeships are available near me that relate to particular jobs/projects/career pathways?
  • How can I find out more information about the Labour Market? (this is where useful resources like the ones mentioned above and qualified careers professionals can help you!)

The key to unlocking the secrets of the Labour Market is curiosity and asking questions about what is happening in the world around us – What might replace high-street shops now that so many people shop online? Where will people choose to live if they can work remotely anywhere? What are some of the problems that will affect the world/my community in the future and how could these be solved? Understanding the answer to some of these questions on a global, national and local level helps us to build a clearer picture of the Labour Market and where we ourselves might fit within it.

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