Modestly encouraging news for jobbing PAYE umbrella contractors has emerged in the latest Monthly Trends analysis from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo). Given the parlous state of the UK economy, especially with a potentially apocalyptic Euro-storm brewing, modest encouragement is considerably preferable to a poke in the eye.

The temporary jobs market has performed significantly better than the permanent market. Demand for skilled temporary workers in accountancy and finance saw a third successive month of growth, rising by 37%. Even so, this total is 35% lower than that recorded in March 2011. Temporary vacancies in engineering also rose – up 3% on February, and 5% higher than March 2011.

Employers remain nervous about hiring permies, however. Permanent openings for professional level personnel declined by 3% in March and are 20.5% lower than the same time last year. Vacancies for permanent IT professionals also fell, although demand for specialists in IT contracting remained strong.

APSCo’s Chief Executive, Ann Swain, said:

“The jobs market staged a rally at the start of the year, but has lost momentum over the past month. Demand for permanent candidates is still around a third down on last year. With the economy having flatlined during the past year it has been very difficult for employers to make all but the most essential hiring decisions.”

She went on to say that temporary workers, including skilled contractors working through umbrella companies, provide a flexible alternative, enabling employers to absorb transient spikes in workload “without having to add to fixed employment costs.”

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