New data from rapid recruitment software developer Mercury xRM contains an implicit message of optimism for skilled Umbrella Company employees and contracting professionals: the skills shortage that dominated the recruitment scene in 2014 shows no sign of abating in 2015 and recruiters will struggle to source permanent talent.

The company’s latest quarterly state of the industry survey found that 53% of the recruiters polled were concerned that their growth prospects for 2015 could be impeded by a lack of quality candidates and increased administrative burdens – the two most pressing concerns amongst the respondents. Other challenges flagged up by the respondents were increasing competition, lack of clients, and staff retention.

The straw poll consisted of recruiters who attended the Recruitment Live exhibition last year and Mercury xRM’s own internal recruitment network. The results come at a crucial time for the recruitment industry: while unemployment continued to fall in last quarter of 2014, so did the availability of suitably skilled candidates; in fact, the latter declined significantly.

Recruiters are finding themselves in intense competition for skilled candidates in direct proportion to the latter’s dwindling numbers as the downward trend continues. The good news for contractors, of course, is that employers who cannot source the permanent talent they need will frequently turn to skilled freelancers, not only to help manage fluctuating business demands but also to complete projects vital to their growth.

Despite the skills shortage, 73% of the respondents reported brisker business at the close of 2014 than at the same time in 2013 and are optimistic about 2015.

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