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Demand for Professionals Holds Strong as UK Economy Defies Brexit Turmoil

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Professional recruitment firms reported that demand for permanent talent fell by 3% year-on-year in January 2019, while vacancies for contingent workers decreased by 2% over the same period, according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

Permanent vacancies up in engineering

Despite this overall decline in demand, APSCo’s data does reveal pockets of positivity, most notably within the engineering sector, where vacancies for permanent workers rose by 16%. This, however contrasts demand for contract workers within engineering, which dipped by 20%.

Permanent placements up

Despite an overall dip in demand for talent, permanent placements increased by 3% in January 2019.

This overall strength can be firmly attributed to a significant 13% year-on-year increase in temporary placements within finance. However, when compared to contract placements within the sector, placements dipped by 8%.

Contract market remains slow

While permanent placements increased 2% in the year to January 2019, the number of contractors out on assignment dipped by 5% during the same period. Use of contingent workers fell across every one of APSCo’s core sectors, with the exception of financial services.

Professional salaries up

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all core professional sectors remained stable in January 2019, rising by 2.4% across the board. Average salaries within many of APSCo’s core sectors, however, increased more significantly. Within financial services, for example, average salaries rose by 7% year-on-year. In marketing, meanwhile, salaries are up by 4.3% over the same period.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo comments:

“Despite repeated warnings that the UK economy is at risk of shrinking while Brexit looms on the horizon, GDP growth continues to defy expectations. This resilience is also reflected in the employment market, with the ONS reporting in April that the number of people in work has once again hit a record high. The professional sectors our members represent are no exception, with permanent placements increasing by 4% year-on-year in April.”

John Nurthen, Staffing Industry Analysts’ Executive Director of Global Research commented:

“Demand for professional staffing services remains quite tepid while we remain in Brexit limbo. Our index of vacancies for permanent and temporary/contract staff slipped by 2% and 3% respectively but there are still some bright spots. Demand for permanent social work and engineering staff seems robust as does temporary/contract finance and IT workers.”