Umbrella Company Employees on the lookout for new assignments in 2014 might do well to seek new contracting opportunities amongst the UK’s SMEs, with new research from Clydesdale Bank suggesting that SMEs are predominantly buoyant about their growth prospects and job creation plans in the year ahead.

The survey of over 800 SMEs by the bank found that, on average, they intend to expand their workforces by +2.9% each; applied to the UK’s 4.9 million SMEs, this represents a new job creation total of 417,000.

Interestingly, hiring confidence appears to be higher amongst smaller companies employing less than 50 staff, with 63% planning to grow their headcounts over the next few months. Medium-sized enterprises employing between 50 and 249 employees are somewhat more circumspect, with just 36% intending to recruit during the year.

64% of SMEs located in the North East plan to recruit new staff. Hiring intentions are also strong amongst their counterparts in London, where 46% intend to appoint more staff.

Sounding a cautiously optimistic note, the regional director for business and private banking at Clydesdale Bank in the East of England, Alan Young, said: “While our research suggests that many businesses are becoming more confident about investing in their future, it is important that we recognise there remain considerable challenges to growth. Access to funding is crucial to achieving growth aspirations. SMEs are crucial to the UK economy and its emerging recovery and we will continue to support them in 2014.”

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