Contractors working through umbrella companies or limited companies may find the latest Reed Job Index encouraging. The data reveals a distinct growth in demand for new staff in December 2011 – up 17% on the same time the previous year and over 20% higher than in December 2009.

The overall growth was largely driven by demand for technical staff, such as specialists in the IT skills market and engineering. Other sectors that rose above the 17% average included construction, sales, and leisure and tourism.

The public sector showed a marked decline in demand, dropping by 15% on December 2010 and by around 33% on the previous year. While demand for staff in the financial sector remained above the level recorded two years ago when the index began, it nonetheless fell just below the level recorded in December 2010.

Compared to November, however, there was a seasonal drop in vacancies during December.’s managing director Michael Warnes said:

“The year-on-year increase in demand for new staff is particularly striking against the backdrop of economic turmoil of the last few months. The traditional seasonal drop in recruitment activity in December has had its impact against the two-year highs recorded in November, but the fact that the number of new job vacancies on offer remains 17% higher than 12 months ago is significant. Skilled technical staff in traditional areas of heavy industry, like engineering, have been especially sought after, alongside IT, telecommunications, leisure and tourism staff.”

Conceding that it was impossible to predict new economic challenges, Mr Warnes added that employers appear to be planning for growth in 2012.

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