Employer confidence has flatlined for the third consecutive month, with the number of public and private sector bosses planning to freeze both temporary and permanent headcounts rising.

This is the verdict of the latest JobsOutlook report from the REC, although it is not all grim reading for jobbing PAYE umbrella contractors. To take the more dispiriting news first: the number of employers planning a freeze on permanent staff has climbed from 33% last month to 40% this month, while the number planning to expand permanent headcounts has fallen over the same interval from 62% to 55%.

Contractors working through umbrella companies and limited companies will perhaps be more interested in temporary recruitment intentions. Over the next quarter, the number planning to hire more temporary and contractor staff has fallen from last month’s 31% to 25% now, with those planning to do so over the next year falling from 29% to 22%. Hirers intending to freeze temp and contractor headcounts rose from 53% to 61%.

Acknowledging that employer confidence has been “fragile” throughout the year, Roger Tweedy, the REC’s director of research, added: “[W]e know that many employers are poised to hire when confidence returns and there are signs that the outlook for temporary staffing could be improving. This month we’re looking at a period of stability rather than cuts in worker numbers, which is still in line with predictions of a slow, stop-start recovery.”

More encouragingly for contractors, the REC also reports that more employers are exploring flexible options as an alternative to traditional work patterns.

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