A narrow but bright beam of economic sunlight managed to poke through the slate-grey clouds during October, with demand for PAYE umbrella contractors and other freelancers rising sharply.

Reed Recruitment’s latest Jobs Index shows the biggest month-on-month climb in job opportunities for nearly two years, with impressive surges in the marketing and accountancy sectors, as well as in the IT skills market. Public sector demand remains feeble but still managed a 9% rise, ending the month with an index score of 66.

When Reed began its monthly Jobs Index in 2009, it set its baseline index figure at 100. At the end of last month, the Index had risen to 129, indicating a powerful 29% increase in advertised opportunities over the measure’s two-year history.

Specialists in IT contracting can derive particular cheer – the sector saw a 24 point rise, ending the month at 173. The biggest increase, however, was seen in the voluntary sector, which saw an eminently ‘bragworthy’ 43% rise. Contractors working through umbrella companies will be comforted to hear that there was a rise of 2.5% in temporary placements from September to October.

Reed’s Managing Director, Tim Lovell, welcomed the results, adding that they represented the “best month-on-month increase in employment vacancies since the index began.” All in all, no fewer than 12 areas in the UK experienced at least some degree of growth.

On a slightly gloomier note, salaries didn’t fare so well, with the index registering 97 – down three percentage points on December 2009. However, leisure and tourism and retailing bucked the trend, with scores rising to 102 and 116 respectively.

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