Professional vacancies in the City dropped by 37% in December while the number of professionals seeking new jobs and contracting opportunities fell by 23%, the latest London Employment Monitor from Morgan McKinley reveals.

The picture is not quite the doom-and-gloom scenario it appears to be, as City recruitment traditionally slows in December. Morgan McKinley Financial Services operations director, Hakan Enver, explained: “We saw tired executives taking Christmas breaks earlier than in previous years. Whilst the seasonal dip hit a little earlier, hiring activity also slowed due to wider concerns about a fragile UK recovery.”

The year-on-year figures indicate a more buoyant trend, however, with the number of professional job and contract seekers surging by 51%.

Even so, Mr Enver noted that caution in the market remains, driven by three developments: fears of deflation in the eurozone, which resulted in a fall in the composite purchasing manager’s index (PMI) during December to 51.4 against an anticipated 51.7; the inclusion of seven new compliance benchmarks in financial conduct legislation; and ongoing uncertainty over the outcome of the May general election.

The new regulatory measures are almost certainly good news for Umbrella Company employees contracting as IT professionals, however. While adding administrative burdens to financial institutions, the measures are driving intense demand for IT experts as compliance is pushed to the top of City firms’ hiring agendas.

The general election is generating particular uncertainty, with the prospect of a hung parliament and minority parties gaining important seats. A possible Conservative EU referendum is also contributing to more cautious hiring.

Highly qualified professionals, however, “will continue to be a sought-after commodity”, Mr Enver said.

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