A somewhat mixed picture for PAYE umbrella contractors has emerged from the latest REC/KPMG Report on Jobs. Permanent vacancies rose modestly in April, while temporary billings fell slightly.

Demand for permanent staff appears to be solid, continuing the trend seen at the beginning of the year, although the growth rate fell back to January’s level. Contractor and temporary billings, however, fell at the fastest rate since July 2009, although this overall figure conceals much better news for some, especially specialists in IT contracting and engineering, both of which enjoyed a growth in opportunities compared to March.

It is possible that the latter sectors benefited from end-of-financial-year spare cash, which companies appear to have ploughed into technical skills. Pay rates for contractors and temporary workers eked up a little on March’s average, but permanent salaries stayed flat.

REC Chief Executive Kevin Green said that the UK jobs market remains fragile, although both consumer and employer confidence appeared to be growing, a trend which may yield more jobs in the private sector in the second half of 2012.

However, despite a recent poll of REC members that suggested that the Agency Workers Regulations were having little to no impact on contractor and temporary billings, Mr Green begged to differ, adding:

“Temporary staffing is declining as employers take on more permanent staff and come to terms with the Agency Workers Regulations, however, temps will continue to be a valuable resource for many businesses.”

Both the growth and the confidence behind it are fragile, he said, and he warned that both could be undermined by reports of the double-dip recession and any further deterioration in the ongoing Eurozone crisis.

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