Recent statistics suggesting that unemployment is falling while both permanent and temporary billings are rising.

The Office for National Statistics has released figures showing that unemployment fell by 49,000 between July and September, while employment grew by 100,000. There was also a drop in working age economic inactivity of 25,000.

The figures are in line with the latest Reed Job Index, which shows that hiring rates for permanent and temporary roles maintained a small but steady month-on-month increase. Intriguingly, two sectors that have been struggling throughout the year – construction and retail – have also been recruiting more actively. Overall, the Reed Index reveals that job billings were 8% higher in October 2012 than the same time last year.

While the figures are not quite the occasion for popping any champagne corks any time soon, they remain encouraging considering the challenging economic conditions. The rise in temporary billings suggests that employers remain cautious about hiring and may be turning to contractor solutions in preference to focussing solely on expanding their permanent headcounts.

REC chief executive Kevin Green welcomed the ONS figures, which he believes have been boosted by flexible workers taking temporary assignments via Umbrella Services. He said: “There are opportunities across a whole range of jobs and sectors for interims and contractors, not just the low-paid or low-skilled ones that are often associated with temping.”

Sounding a cautionary note, he added: “However, it is important that the government does not get complacent. Flexible working options are a core strength of our labour market and must not be stifled by over-regulation.”

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