Permanent job placements increase 10 per cent as contractor numbers fall

27 Feb 2018 By Marianne Calnan

Survey finds ‘clear split’ in demand for professionals across sectors, with financial services leading the way

Permanent job placements have increased 10 per cent year-on-year, as employers continue to avoid short-term hiring practices despite economic uncertainty, new research shows.

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and Staffing Industry Analysts’ Professional recruitment trends report for January 2018, published yesterday, revealed that permanent vacancies grew by 0.3 per cent year-on-year, while contractor vacancies dipped 9 per cent.

The highest rise in permanent vacancies was seen among financial services professionals, where roles jumped 16 per cent year-on-year. Finance was also the only industry to record a rise in demand among non-permanent roles. 

The APSCo study looked at the demand for permanent and temporary roles in the engineering, finance, IT, marketing and social work sectors. The study found contractor vacancies for marketeers fell most significantly, by 21 per cent, while IT-based roles slipped by 8 per cent, and contractor vacancies in the engineering sector declined 5 per cent.

The demand for financial professionals in contractor positions, meanwhile, was up 2 per cent year-on-year, though the number of contractors currently on an assignment fell 16 per cent.

Although there were shifts in duration of hires, average salaries dropped 1.2 per cent year-on-year. There were vast sector fluctuations, with the financial services and engineering sectors enjoying salary uplifts of 1.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

The APSCo figures suggest an even greater overall drop in salary levels than Office for National Statistics (ONS) data from December 2017, which revealed that average weekly earnings in real terms, adjusted for price inflation, dropped 0.2 per cent including bonuses, and 0.4 per cent excluding bonuses, in 2017 compared with 2016. When not adjusted in real terms for price inflation, average weekly earnings including bonuses increased 2.5 per cent.

John Nurthen, Staffing Industry Analysts’ executive director of global research, said there continued to be a “clear split” in demand for skilled professionals. “Staffing firms are finding it easy to place candidates into permanent roles but much more difficult to fill temporary and contract positions.”

Although this split in demand is “most obvious” in the social work and engineering sectors, according to Nurthern, the “tight labour market is likely to continue” for the foreseeable future. 

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, said the market for permanent jobs began the year strongly, with financial services clearly leading the pack in terms of both demand and placements.

“Looking forward, with recent research suggesting that financial services is one of the sectors that will be impacted least by Brexit, we expect this positivity to continue,” she said.

The instability of the jobs market, however, was illustrated in the most recent ONS figures on the labour market. These revealed that unemployment levels reached 4.4 per cent in the final quarter of 2017, 0.1 per cent higher than the previous quarter but down from 4.8 per cent in the same period in 2017. 

UK unemployment levels rose in the last quarter, with 1.47 million unemployed people not in work but seeking and available – 46,000 more than for July to September 2017, but 123,000 fewer than a year earlier, according to last week’s figures. 

Crowley Woodford, employment partner at law firm Ashurst, said a lack of employer confidence in the longer-term future, and job insecurity among workers, “dampens the pressure on employers to offer higher pay and employee representative bodies to demand it".

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