PAYE umbrella contractors familiar with working in SME environments can derive some cheer from new statistics published by the recruitment agency Manpower. Most new jobs are being created by small businesses, the figures reveal, rather than by their big corporate cousins.

The latest Employment Outlook report from Manpower shows that, in the next quarter, the number of SMEs planning to recruit new staff, including freelancers from umbrella companies, has risen by 8%. Manpower UK’s Managing Director, Mark Cahill, said that the outlook for employment in the UK was at its best for three years, despite persistent concerns about the general feebleness of the economy.

The assumption amongst many candidates that job vacancies are more likely to arise in bigger firms is disconfirmed by this data. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, while small is likely to be beautiful. Mr Cahill adds that there remains a massive unmet demand for candidates with specific skills, such as those specialising in the IT skills market or in engineering more generally.

Manpower’s data is underscored by findings in a separate report from ECI Partners, which records growing confidence amongst small business owners about the prospects in the coming year. ECI’s Growth Report reveals that almost three quarters of the small firm owners polled (74%) expect their staffing levels to rise in the coming year. Half said that they expect staffing increases of 5% or more, while 60% say that the are on course to see a rise in turnover reaching double digits.

It may not amount to an employment bonanza, but as the ancient Chinese proverb has it, a journey of a million miles begins with one step.

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