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UK – Permanent vacancies up 2% in June

28 July 2017

Professional recruitment firms in the UK reported that overall vacancy numbers for permanent roles increased by 2% year-on-year in June 2017, according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies.

The data showed that both permanent and temporary placements were up 4% year-on-year in June. APSCo’s figures focus on professional recruitment and revealed notable variations between the trade association’s core sector groups in terms of hiring activity.

While permanent vacancies across both finance and engineering have increased (by 8% and 4% respectively) permanent vacancies within IT slipped by 5%. Vacancies for professional contractors decreased by 13% across the board year-on-year, with demand falling across every core sector group. Demand for non-permanent staff fell by 13% year-on-year in June, however the number of contractors on assignment increased by 4% during the same period. APSCo’s data suggests that while the market is currently strong, there may be a slowdown on the horizon.

“Recruitment trends are difficult to read at the moment,” John Nurthen for Staffing Industry Analysts, said. “While, on the face of it, growing numbers of permanent and temporary job placements suggest a healthy business environment, staffing firms are seeing weakness in terms of new vacancies received from employers, especially for flexible workers/contractors where demand slipped by 13% year-on-year.  Notably, professional IT vacancies have been in gradual decline for the past two years and staffing firms report slow client-decision making and increasing time-to-hire.”

“Even in sectors where there is jobs growth, given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it’s possible we might be witnessing proactive hiring before the access to skilled overseas talent is turned off,” Nurthen said.

Permanent placements within the engineering sector increased by 4% year-on-year in June 2017 while the number of contractors on assignment rose by 20% during the same period. Future demand also remains strong, with the number of permanent vacancies increasing by 4% year-on-year.

“Our data shows that permanent and flexible placements for professional talent continued to strengthen in June, however the forward trajectory is much less certain,” Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, said. “This is unsurprising when you consider that the UK is currently going through an unprecedented level of unpredictability, with both employers and candidates becoming more hesitant to make big employment decisions against the current landscape.”

High levels of hiring activity in this area can be attributed to an uptick in major infrastructure projects across the UK, with research by Engineering UK recently found that the country will need an additional 1.8 million engineers and technically qualified people by 2025. This is also a possible explanation for the sector’s 2.4% reported increase in average salaries year-on-year.   

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors increased by 0.1% in June 2017. This figure is characterised by notable fluctuations in terms of sector, with engineering, financial services, and IT all recording uplifts (of 2.4%, 3.5% and 0.2% respectively).

“Looking at activity in the contractor market specifically, it seems that although organisations are currently making full use of flexible workforces, many have put the brakes on bringing on board additional interims as summer approaches,” Swain said. “However, as heightened levels of activity in the engineering sector demonstrates, the strength of the contractor market lies in its ability to flex with rapid changes in demand and, as such, the market can change in an instant.” 

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