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Latest Jobs Data: Demand for Contractors Down 11%


Professional recruitment firms reported that overall vacancy numbers for contract roles dipped by 11% in September 2017, while demand for permanent professionals remained largely stable, increasing by 0.8% year-on-year, according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

APSCo’s data, which focuses on professional recruitment, reveals that demand for contractors decreased across every one of trade association’s core sector groups. Vacancies within engineering, for example, slipped by just 2%, while demand within IT, finance and marketing fell more significantly (by 11%, 21% and 27% respectively).

This is despite the fact that, according to the most recent ONS data, the number of self-employed workers across the UK increased by 57,000 to reach a record high level of 4.86 million in the three months to August 2017.

Permanent placements up

While new openings for permanent roles increased by just 0.8% in September 2017, the number of professionals placed that month increased by 4% year-on-year. Much of this strength can be attributed to the finance and engineering sectors (where placements increased by 14% and 7% respectively).

Contractors out

The overall number of contractors out on assignment, meanwhile, dipped by 4% during the same period. This can largely be attributed to a 27% year-on-year fall in IT professionals working on a contract basis during this time.

Despite this overall dip, the number of contractors out on assignment within engineering and finance increased year-on-year in September 2017 (by 18% and 14% respectively).

Average salaries stable

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors remain largely stable, increasing by 0.4% year-on-year. This figure is characterised by notable fluctuations in terms of sector, with financial services, for example, recording an uplift of 5.4% while in aerospace average salaries were down 6.5% year-on-year. The median wage increase across the professional sectors falls short of the 2.1% rise in average earnings across the whole UK labour market as reported by the ONS in October 2017. It also represents a fall in in real-terms when inflation is taken into account.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo comments:

“The rise of the gig-economy has been instrumental in shaping the professional recruitment landscape in recent months. But a dip in contractor vacancies suggests that employers are now prioritising long-term workforce plans, rather than short term gap-plugging, as we become more accustomed to this ongoing period of uncertainty. And while, as yet, this isn’t being reflected in a similar uptick in demand for permanent staff, the fact that placements have increased by 4% year-on-year is a positive sign of market stability.”

“The healthy increase in permanent placements – coupled with the number of contractors out on assignment – within the finance and engineering sectors suggests where we can anticipate future short-term growth.”

John Nurthen for Staffing Industry Analysts says:

“The solid growth in permanent placements disguises the problems staffing firms are having in sourcing good quality candidates. Without such skills shortages, we could be looking at an even better picture.”

“With everyone focused on Brexit, it’s easy to overlook the deep-rooted structural problems we face with the UK employment market.”