The general economy may be limping painfully at present but the market in IT contracting is likely to remain in good health over the next twelve months, according to a prominent online recruitment site.

The IT Jobs Board has released data which shows that, while employers remain cautious about hiring new staff, many are finding it exceptionally difficult to find appropriately qualified and experienced experts in the IT skills market. Enter the intrepid PAYE umbrella techie.

The site has seen a significant increase in the number of contractor roles available, which currently account for over a quarter (26%) of all advertised openings. The site’s Director of Sales, Pete Healey, said that the general trend in the contractor market was strong in relation to permanent roles, a characteristic development during economically uncertain times during which businesses tend toward the contractor route.

Although the cost per hour is higher, he went on, employers favour contractors at times like this because of their flexibility: they allow businesses to make rapid changes in their team sizes in line with fluctuating economic conditions.

General uncertainty about the economy is likely to persist through 2012, Mr Healey said, but his firm expects demand for skilled ICT professionals to remain high. Topping the list of most sought-after proficiencies are SQL and SQL Server skills, he added, but web-based skills, especially in applications such .NET and JAVA, are also much in demand. Healey believes this is a consequence of the growing move from physical computing environments to the cloud.

Other prized roles include Project Managers and IT Security experts, demand for whom is rising as more systems move toward web-based environments.

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