New survey data released by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) reveals that vacancies for permanent and contracting professionals continue to rise, climbing by one per cent year-on-year.

Vacancies within the finance and accounting sector surged by an impressive 10.2 per cent despite ongoing uncertainties about the outcome of the EU referendum. Engineering vacancies, however, plunged year-on-year by 14 per cent.

Independent professionals contracting through Umbrella Companies remain in demand: temporary and contract vacancies were up by a modest one per cent year-on-year. This average, however, conceals a major surge in vacancies for finance and accounting contractors, who saw roles skyrocketing by 29 per cent year-on-year. The most likely explanation for this explosion is increased workloads occasioned by the run-up to the close of the 2015/16 financial year.

On a month-on-month basis, median salaries fell by 0.1 per cent across all professional sectors, a figure that conceals some dramatic fluctuations sector-by-sector. Education salaries jumped by 11.2 per cent, while those in property and development dropped by two per cent. Year-on-year, professional salaries rose across the board by 3.4 per cent.

John Nurthen, Executive Director of Global Research at Staffing Industry Analysts (the research and advisory agency that compiles the report for APSCo), said that while the EU referendum was “conveniently taking the blame” for a weakening in economic performance in numerous sectors, the true cause may lie elsewhere: a fundamental weakness in the country’s economy.

He pointed to the easing of GDP growth in Q1 and the forecast of further easing in Q2 as well as other indicators of weakness, such as falling business investments and the slump in manufacturing and construction, all of which suggest that UK growth “remains reliant on consumer spending.”

He added: “Against this background, a modest 1% increase in permanent and contract vacancies compared to the prior year sounds like a pretty good result.”

APSCo Chief Executive Ann Swain said: “The relatively soft 1% growth in demand for both permanent and contract roles indicates that Brexit uncertainty is no doubt affecting the professional jobs market.

This is further illustrated by the fact that average salaries dipped month-on-month in April for a fourth consecutive month.”

Recruitment forms working with APSCo, she said, have reported that more employers are adopting a “wait and see” approach to future workforce planning.

A clear exception to the general lull in hiring activity, Ms Swain noted, has occurred in the financial services industry, where hirers “cannot afford the luxury of breathing space” due to the pace of technological and legislative change in their sector.

Ms Swain also pointed out that there are now 4.69 million self-employed and freelancing workers in the UK, which comprises 15 per cent of the workforce population.

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