As the UK economy teeters on the brink of a triple-dip recession, London and the East Midlands have emerged as the best places to be for jobbing PAYE umbrella contractors on the hunt for new assignments.

The Lloyd’s TSB Purchasing Managers’ Index, which measures regional business activity on a monthly basis, shows that overall private sector output fell in July from June’s score of 53.1 to a dismal 49.5, largely due to a sharp decline in manufacturing activity.

There was, however, better news beneath the main headline. As the number of job vacancies in the North West took the most painful plunge in the UK, job creation in the East Midlands emerged as the strongest.

London, too, did extraordinarily well, given prevailing conditions, with activity rising from June’s 51.6 to 53.3 in July. Needless to say, contractors working through umbrella companies found it easier to find new contracts in these areas than elsewhere. And since umbrellas provide complete flexibility and can help offset travel expenses, we would expect umbrella workers to be taking a substantial proportion of these jobs

The index is based on a scale of 0 to 100 and measures three outcomes in comparison with the previous month: respondents are asked to report an improvement in business activity, no change (indicated by a score of 50) or a decline (indicated by a score below 50).

Ian Patterson, area director of Lloyds TSB Commercial in Central London, said that London defied the trend seen across most of the rest of the country, adding: “The capital was also the best performing region in terms of new business growth during July, helped by robust gains in the service economy; however, the uncertain economic outlook and a general lack of pressure on operating capacity meant that private sector job creation was still relatively modest.”

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