The latest REC/KPMG Report on Jobs will hardly induce any dancing in the street amongst jobbing PAYE umbrella contractors, but it brings better news than the dismal situation reflected in June’s report.

July’s survey reveals that June’s decline in contractor and permanent billings has eased. While permanent pay rates rose slightly, many contractors working through umbrella companies will have noticed a fall. Temp rates in general were down and, although there was growth in the number of vacancies in July, it was at its feeblest for six months.

Permanent recruitment declined in all English regions except for the Midlands, which showed no change on June’s figures. London saw the steepest fall in permanent placements and billings for short-term staff also declined in the capital and the North of England. The decrease in billings for public sector staff was offset to some extent by an increase in demand from the private sector. The Engineering and Construction and Medical/Nursing/Care sectors registered the strongest demand.

In an upbeat statement, REC chief executive Kevin Green said that the UK economy should be awarded a “gold medal” for its “incredible performance in the face of adversity.” It had, he went on, “defied gravity”, with job availability growing despite a fallback into recession.

He added: “What must be emphasised, though, is that employers are still hiring. In fact, the number of vacancies has grown, but fragile confidence means they are taking longer to make decisions about appointments and the whole process of recruiting is slowing down. This slow-down is likely to be exacerbated further by thousands of school and university leavers joining the jobs market over the next month.”

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