Contract vacancies continue to rise in professional sectors

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Employers in professional sectors are continuing to show steady demand for temporary workers and contractors, new research has shown.

In its latest monthly report, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) revealed that short-term and contract vacancies had increased by two per cent compared to this time last year.

The finance and accounting sector has been particularly fruitful for contract professionals, delivering a 34 per cent year-on-year increase in opportunities.

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, pointed out that vacancies for temporary, project-based work have been consistently strong despite a parallel increase in permanent roles.

She said this shows that organisations are making the most of the benefits offered by Britain's flexible workforce.

APSCo's report is the latest indication of growth in independent working, with Office for National Statistics data for the three months to September showing that the number of self-employed had increased by 30,000 from a year earlier.

The industry association said this trend is having an impact on the way recruiters operate.

In the past, temporary workers were generally seen as a short-term solution to cover shortfalls in the permanent labour force, but the professional flexible workforce is now "the new normal".

APSCo said this is a trend that is likely to continue into 2016.

Focusing on finance and accounting, Ms Swain pointed out that demand for contractors is particularly high in this sector as institutions bring in specialist skills to manage change on a project-by-project basis.
She continued: "The migration of talent to outside of London by institutions such as HSBC, coupled with legislative changes such as retail operation ring-fencing, mean that the demand for talent is outstripping availability.

"News that Barclays has promoted an executive with a reputation for cutting costs to a top position at its investment bank is indicative of a shift within the sector to realign workforces so that they are fit for purpose.

"This, of course, is having a heavy and immediate impact on demand for contractors, which we expect will continue for the coming months."

Looking at all forms of work, the APSCo report showed that professional recruiters have six per cent more vacancies on their books than at this time last year.

In addition to finance and accounting, there has been stronger demand for workers in the media and marketing sector, while pay has also been on an upward trend.

Ms Swain said wages are steadily increasing as employers "fight for top talent amidst a wave of sector shortages".

Earlier this month, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation released its industry trends survey for 2014-15, which showed that 1.2 million people were out on temporary, contract or interim assignments on any given day in the past year.

This marks an increase of 3.6 per cent from 2013-14.

The figures also revealed that, on any given day, every recruitment consultant working in temporary and contract staffing had 32 workers out on assignment.

By Victoria McDonnell

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