The latest JobsOutlook survey from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has recorded a significant year-on-year increase in employer confidence over hiring flexible workers.

The new survey covered the interval between February and April 2018 and shows that net employer confidence in hiring short-term staff over the coming three months reached +14, four points above the +10 recorded during the same period last year. Over the longer term (4 – 12 months), hiring intentions for agency/contracting workers reached +16 net, two points higher than the +14 level recorded during the same interval in 2017.

Hiring intentions for permanent staff over both the short- and long-term (i.e., the coming 3 months and the next 4 – 12 months) stood at +14 net.

The latest survey data also reveals another promising new development: overall employer confidence in the British economy rose, reaching its first positive rating since August last year. The survey shows that 30% of employers are again feeling optimistic about the British economy, compared to 29% who fear conditions are worsening. A net balance of +1 may be small, but it nonetheless represents an improvement on the stubborn overall pessimism that has dogged survey respondents over last 10 months.

Confidence in investment plans and hiring new staff stood at a net balance of +14.

While confidence appears to be climbing, employers remain uncertain overall about whether to commit to hiring new permanent staff. Fewer than half (46%) of survey respondents voiced concerns about the sufficiency of candidate availability for permanent roles, a rise of 9% on the figure recorded at the same time last year.

Commenting on the latest findings, the REC’s Director of Policy, Tom Hadley, said:

“It is encouraging that employers are feeling more optimistic about the UK economy and that this is having a positive impact on hiring intentions of temporary staff. This underlines the importance of a vibrant temporary and contract staffing market in times of uncertainty and is good news for workers who seek more flexibility in their careers to fit around their studies or family life.”

Addressing the concerns about permanent hires, Hadley said that it was possible to boost employer confidence in appointing new long-term staff. He called on the government to adopt a twin-track approach to manage concerns about insufficient candidate availability: “delivering on the commitment to ramp up the UK skills base, whilst also developing an evidence-based post-Brexit immigration systems that maintain access to workers from the EU.”

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