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Demand for professional talent up 26% as UK employment rate hits record high

This increase in opportunities coincides with the latest research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which has found that the UK employment rate has hit the highest level since records began, with employment increasing by 103,000 in the three months to December driving the proportion of people currently in work to 73.2%.

Growth across the board with engineering steaming ahead

Beneath this headline figure, the latest data from APSCo reveals that growth in the professional staffing market continues to climb across all of the trade association’s core sector groups. Permanent vacancies across finance & accounting, IT, engineering and media & marketing are all up year-on-year (16%, 27%, 48% and 7% respectively). This positivity is in line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) most recent report which recognised that the British economy expanded by 2.6 percent in 2014 and that “the building blocks have been placed to have a long-term growth.”

The continual growth of the engineering sector can largely be attributed to a buoyant manufacturing industry, coupled with government initiatives to improve infrastructure. According to the latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), manufacturing output expanded for the 23rd consecutive month in January 2015, thanks to a further increase in incoming new orders, primarily from the domestic market.

The Government’s Infrastructure Act, which was introduced in February 2015, outlines new measures to allow the creation of Highways England, which will use access to long term stable funding to ensure improvements to the country’s major road network are streamlined, cost efficient and encourage investment.

Average salaries mirror vacancy growth

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors were up by a healthy 4.9% year-on-year. This overall growth is characterised by notable fluctuations in terms of sector, with engineering and finance recording uplifts of 10.6% and 7.6% respectively. This average rise in remuneration is in keeping with recent predictions from economic forecaster EY Item Club which has reported that UK workers are set to see their real pay rise in 2015 for the first time since 2007, representing a 1.8% uplift this year and further steady increases thereafter.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo comments:

“The UK’s economic dark clouds are now well and truly lifting. This positivity, coupled with falling oil prices, has no doubt contributed to the fortunes of the engineering and manufacturing sectors in recent months. However, according to the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, industrial bosses fear that Britain is in danger of being left behind in the “fourth industrial revolution” if the next government fails to frame an industrial policy that frees up corporate investment and improves the nation’s skills base. In order to sustain this growth it is vital that the engineering sector continues to invest in the development of talent to aid future innovation and prosperity.” 

Contract vacancies remain strong

Temporary and contract vacancies remain strong across the professional staffing market, despite an increase in availability of permanent roles, with opportunities up by 7.7% across the board. Temporary vacancies across finance & accounting, IT, engineering and media & marketing have all increased year-on-year (25%, 8%, 4.3% and 9% respectively). These figures are in line with recent data released by the ONS which found that self-employment has outstripped growth in permanent employment by three to one over the past ten years, with an additional 88,000 people becoming self-employed in the three months to December 2014.   

Swain continues

“It is no surprise that contract vacancy numbers remain strong, despite a marked increase in permanent roles. This data reiterates what APSCo has long predicted – that the professional flexible workforce is now & lsquo;the new normal’. Whereas historically, many organisations may have thought of temporary workers as people to hold the fort during absence – or as a means of managing workload during an economic downturn - the reality is now quite different. According to areport by the IPPR, the UK is now the self-employment capital of Western Europe. We are entering a new era of corporate agility and freelancers, professional interims and contractors are increasingly choosing to take control of their employment and manage their careers on their own terms.”


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