The latest REC and IHS Markit Report on Jobs shows a marked acceleration in the placement of contracting professionals and other flexible workers in February.

Permanent placements also continued to climb sharply across the country, but at a slightly softer pace than in January.

While demand for new staff remained strong, its overall rate of growth in vacancies eased to its most modest pace in more than a year, slowing for both temporary and permanent roles.

Recruiters reported ongoing shortfalls in the availability of suitable candidates for both permanent and flexible positions in February, although the deterioration was less pronounced than in the previous month and reached the weakest rate of decline in 11 and 13 months respectively.

Regionally, placements for contracting staff grew most vigorously in the Midlands, with Scotland coming in at a close second. Growth was also pronounced in each of the other regions monitored in the survey. The Midlands was also home to the sharpest rise in permanent placements although growth rates climbed steeply in all other regions too, except London where they rose at their slowest pace in five months.

The most in-demand category of flexible staff was Nursing/Medical/Care, narrowly beating Blue Collar to the top of the demand league table. Demand for short-term construction workers was the weakest of all the categories monitored.

For permanent staff, demand was highest in the IT & Computing sector, while Accounting/Financial and Engineering also registered sharp increases in demand. Vacancies for permanent staff climbed across all of the job sectors monitored.

Noting that demand for staff continues to grow even in the face of employer uncertainty, REC CEO Kevin Green drew attention to the continued decline in candidate availability. Employers across all sectors, he said, were therefore struggling to find desperately needed staff for crucial roles.

He continued:

“Nursing in particular remains an area of shortage as nurses continue to leave the NHS and recruitment gets tougher. Recruiters tell us that demand for temporary medical staff is higher than every other sector and ONS data supports the idea that a huge number of vacancies exist across NHS trusts.

“Employers need to make their jobs attractive to candidates to attract talent and skills to their organisation. Increasing starting pay is a good step, but it isn’t enough. Businesses need to focus on creating a great culture and investing in their people. The opportunity for development and the ability to progress are key for people looking to move job.”

Green called on the government to ensure that Britain continues to have easy access post-Brexit to much-needed talent from the EU and to broaden the apprenticeship levy into a more encompassing training levy.

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