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Regions catch up to London in quarterly jobs boost

A new national survey of the interim and contract jobs market has shown the regions catching up with the capital in terms of employment recovery, despite fears that the abolition of regional development agencies (RDAs) could leave them lagging behind. In the past three months several areas of the UK have mirrored – and in the case of the South West outperformed - London’s employment growth, driven by an upturn in demand for skilled professionals across both the private and public sectors.

The report shows that while recruitment levels in the capital are booming – up 28% quarter on quarter – the South West boasts an impressive 32% increase since quarter two. The Midlands and Central and East are also showing promising signs of recovery, up 17% and 16% respectively. Although the North East is slightly behind with a 1.7% increase on last quarter, the year on year picture for the region looks healthy, with hiring up 24%. Likewise, while the North West’s vacancies are down by 10% quarter on quarter, year on year the figures show a more robust 5.1% increase.

This is according to the UK’s only company dedicated to the provision of professional contract and interim staff to organisations in both the private and public sectors, Venn Group. The company has just released the seventh edition of its quarterly report – The Venn Index – offering an overview of the vacancy levels, average pay and in-demand skills across the UK.

Public sector driving overall growth

The Index showed that UK-wide, vacancies increased by 17% from quarter two to quarter three. According to the report, the growth in hiring activity across all regions, including London, can be largely attributed to a buoyant public sector. Vacancy numbers for public sector roles rose by 45% between quarter two and quarter three 2013, representing a 10% increase when compared to the same period last year. This boom in activity can be largely attributed to the fact that budgets within the NHS have now been reset following the transition from Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Private sector hotspots thriving

There are notable hotspots where the private sector is responsible for spearheading growth. In the South West, for example, the industrial landscape of world-class aerospace firms such as BAE Systems, GKN and Rolls Royce, is driving an increase in demand not only for engineers, but also for accounting and IT professionals to manage projects. Correspondingly, in the Midlands manufacturing and engineering are leading a boost in activity, with an increase in roles both in major car plants and in smaller firms that supply parts and services to the industry. This upturn reflects the latest CBI data, which revealed British industrial output jumped to an 18-year high in October – a sign that a broad-based recovery is bedding in.

Recovery in the housing market and a hike in house sales – encouraged by government initiatives such as its Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme – are also influencing regional jobs growth, specifically in the legal recruitment sector, with demand high for residential conveyancing locums, property paralegals and planning locum solicitors.

Jodie Finn, Venn Group national accounts manager, said: “In terms of what the Venn Index tells us, although London is generally pioneering growth, the employment outlook for the regions is not one of doom and gloom. In the past year, many industry figures have warned that the Government’s abolition of RDAs in favour of local enterprise partnerships could severely harm economic recovery outside of London, citing that the latter lack the resources to do a proper job. Our statistics tell a different story. We’re seeing some tangible evidence of recovery all over the UK, driven by various factors, from positive sentiment in the Capital, to a thriving aerospace industry in the South West and the significant 30% boost in exports from the West Midlands. In light of these positive signs, and the fact that the public sector continues to flourish, we foresee contract and interim employment levels continuing to rise as we approach the New Year and into 2014.”

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