New data from job ads search engine Adzuna reveals that the total number of job vacancies in the UK in August fell by 2.3 per cent compared to the same time last year. Freelancing and contracting, components of the rising ‘gig economy’, appear to be growing in popularity, however, and those with expertise in tech and engineering are in especially high demand.

Adzuna’s latest UK Job Market report shows that in August of this year, the total number of jobs advertised in the UK stood at 1,123,365 – 27,000 less that the total in August 2015. The report speculates that the reduction in vacancies is attributable to the traditional seasonal lull of summer as well as greater caution over hiring in the wake of the Brexit referendum result in June.

Despite the year-on-year fall, hiring was up 0.6 per cent in comparison to the total six months ago.

Adzuna’s co-founder, Doug Monro, observed that people seeking new work opportunities are currently faced with a slightly reduced range of options. He added: “Hiring has certainly not ground to a halt as many predicted after Brexit, however, with more than a million openings on the market this is a seasonal suspension, not a long-term lull. Working options provided by the gig economy are growing in popularity, while skilled workers in shortage areas like tech and engineering are hot property.”

The latter two skill areas are core contractor disciplines, suggesting that demand for Umbrella Company Employees and other contracting professionals who specialise in these areas remains robust.

Consultancy vacancies bucked the downward trend, however, climbing to a total of 12,441 in August. This represents a rise of five per cent on the 11,857 advertised in July and 10 per cent on the total advertised in August 2015. Pay rates for consultants grew by 8.9 per cent year-on-year to reach an average of £47,760. Employers appear to be preparing to buffer themselves against a potential reduction in skilled workers as a result of June’s Brexit verdict.

Competition for vacancies differed markedly on a regional basis. In Northern Ireland, there were 8.39 candidates for every vacancy – the highest ratio in the UK – while in the South East of England, there were four jobs on offer for every candidate (a ratio of 0.25 candidates per vacancy).

Mr Monro acknowledged that stark differences in the hiring environment exist, which has led to the savvier jobseekers moving across the country to obtain work. He described Southern England as markedly ahead of a great deal of the UK in terms of both job availability and pay. Meanwhile, regions such as Northern Ireland are seeing their best talent evaporating because companies are failing to compete on pay.

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