Most jobbing contractors working through umbrella companies will be keeping a vigilant eye on their future prospects, and they will be able to draw some comfort from the latest UK Employment Outlook Survey from the Manpower Group.

The survey polled 2,100 employers across the country and, despite the nerve-shredding debt crisis in the eurozone and continued recessionary uncertainties at home, the verdict is that the jobs market is still in a positive state, albeit barely. The seasonally adjusted net figure for employment intentions during Q3 is +1%, a little less than the +2% recorded for Q2 but not, as some had feared, in negative territory. Larger firms are more confident about hiring than smaller firms.

As ManpowerGroup UK’s Managing Director Mark Cahill put it: “When you’re going head to head with a return to recession at home and a burgeoning eurozone crisis, by rights the jobs market should be in free fall – but that’s not what we’re seeing. Firms are still looking to hire, albeit at a weaker pace than before, but the sort of hiring that is going on is where you’d least expect it.”

He cited the example of the Finance and Business Services Sector, which against the odds has especially strong hiring intentions at +13%. Banks have been hiring thousands of temporary workers, Cahill explained, largely to handle the after-effects of mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance. Amongst these, a fair proportion will be skilled PAYE umbrella contractors.

However, a stubborn North-South divide persists: the Net Employment Outlook for the South stands at +5%, while that for the North East and North West is –6%.

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