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How did the recession affect the contractor market?

By Matthew Brown, Managing Director at giant group

Its common knowledge that the UK business arena was hard hit by the recession. Almost every sector was impacted and suffered major losses, knocking contractor rates and opportunities significantly back. To analyse the impact, we produced our Temporary Recruitment Market Report which looked at contractor sentiment during the financial crisis and compared it with current sentiment over rates, available positions and future market optimism.  So what did our results find and how has the market changed as a result of the global recession?

Initial findings from the analysis were extremely optimistic and highlight a return to pre-recession levels across the contracting market. Professionals are expecting opportunities to stay the same or increase in all of the sectors included in the study (engineering, IT, education, healthcare and finance). It also revealed that contractors across all arenas are expecting rates to climb. While the results arent entirely surprising it was always likely that the market would have improved off the back of the recession it is encouraging to see the sheer rate of development across a wide range of sectors.

One particularly interesting longer term shift that the study highlighted was the change in focus from many contractors. In the initial Temporary Recruitment Market Report, professionals highlighted a preference for longer contracts over higher rates, indicating that they were concerned about available opportunities in the market. However, current sentiment reveals that the emphasis has shifted and increasing numbers of professionals are now looking to gain the best possible pay as a result of an upturn in the market, highlighting the increased number of available positions.

Another sign of increased optimism is that significantly fewer contractors in every sector are predicting a fall in pay when compared to the period during the global recession. While this may seem like an obvious indicator of growing positivity, its more valuable to see the sustained increases in contractor sentiment, suggesting that these improvements in the market are here to stay, rather than being a temporary lift.

So what are the reasons behind these improvements? For one thing, the move away from the global recession has prompted many businesses to take the leap and invest in future growth. The majority will have held off spending budgets over the downturn and while this may have prompted a spike in contractor demand, it simply wasnt sustainable. Organisations are now seeking out specialists who can help to drive future growth. In the engineering sector, for example, much of the demand is for contractors who can aid major projects such as Crossrail and HS2 by providing niche expertise thats hard to procure in permanent talent pools.  And in the education arena, contractors are being sought to help meet the demand caused by the addition of extra subjects to the UK curriculum. While in finance, the increased legislation that aims to curb reckless banker behaviour has also driven demand for specialists in regulatory roles that can ensure banks and their staff are compliant. Other sectors are also performing well and have returned to pre-recession levels, indicating theyre well and truly clear of the economic downturn and can look to drive for growth in the future.

So with these impressive improvements recorded just a year on from the end of the economic downturn, the future looks positive for both businesses and contractors in the UK. In another years time we could potentially be noting record growth as organisations continue to invest in the contract market.

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