Despite uncertainty in the global economy, increased employer costs and the possibility of a “Brexit”, permanent and temporary/contracting employment in the UK is “levelling off.”

This is the verdict of CBI Director for Employment and Skills Neil Carberry, who was speaking about newly released labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Seasonally adjusted data released this week by the ONS showed temporary/contracting employment easing by 2.5 per cent year-on-year in the three months ending in February 2016.  During these three months, temporary/contracting workers constituted 6.2 per cent of all employees compared to 6.4 per cent during the same period last year.

Viewed on a quarter-by-quarter basis, though, the trend appears to be toward growth: by the end of February 2016, there were 0.2 per cent more temps and Umbrella Company Employees in work than in the three months ending in November 2015.

For the purposes of the ONS, temporary status is based upon the self-designations of respondents and as such is a broader category than strictly temporary agency/Umbrella Company work. The category encompasses agency temping, seasonal work, casual work, fixed-term contracting and any other form of temporary work.

Taken as a whole, the figures show that there were 20,000 more people in employment, whether permanent or temporary, in the UK from December last year to February 2016 than in the previous quarter.

By the end of February this year, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 5.6 per cent at the same time last year to 5.1 per cent.

Given that yet another new study from think tank IPPR and analytics company Burning Glass Technologies has identified huge and worsening skills shortages in the UK, the more skilled and niche workers who belong to the temporary/contracting category are unlikely to have seen demand for their talents and services weakening despite the overall year-on-year easing revealed in the ONS figures for the general category of temporary worker.

Commenting on the ONS data, Carberry said: “With more uncertainty in the economy it’s not surprising that labour market performance shows signs of levelling off, with employment growing at the slowest rate since last summer while unemployment edged up a little.

“Employers are also having to take on increased costs associated with a range of new policies on wages and skills, which may have delayed growth plans.”

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