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Professional hiring flatlines pre-Brexit, reveals APSCo

Professional recruitment firms reported that vacancy numbers remained weak in the run up to the EU Referendum with no growth in May 2016, according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).


This is in line with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which reported in June that the overall employment rate remained at 74.2% in the three months to April 2016 – the same figure which was published the previous month - after employment levels increased by only 55,000.


APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors increased by 0.9% year-on-year. Average salaries within the professional sectors fall short of the national increase in salaries as reported by the ONS, which found that average earnings grew at an annual rate of 2% in the three months to April 2016.


Temporary and contract vacancies increased across the professional staffing market with opportunities up by 1% year-on-year. Demand within finance and accounting was particularly strong, with vacancies increasing by 27%. This, APSCo says, can most likely be attributed to a reluctance to hire on a permanent basis amid pre-Brexit uncertainty, juxtaposed with the extra workload in areas such as legislation and stress-testing created by future unpredictability.  


Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, commented, “The fact that permanent hiring has slowed consistently in the run up to the EU referendum means that this latest data is unsurprising.


“However although there has been no increase in permanent roles year-on-year, vacancies for contractors rose marginally, a trend which we expect to continue amid the ongoing market uncertainty.


“It is particularly noteworthy that demand for interims increased within financial services by 27% in May. This is a sector which could arguably be disproportionately affected if the UK exits the single market – so it seems that interims are being drafted in to cover workload until long-term strategies are in place.  


“At this time of uncertainty, our world leading recruitment sector will continue to provide vital labour market flexibility that will allow business to grow. APSCo is now undertaking additional research with members to understand how the vote is impacting placements, vacancies and salaries.”


John Nurthen, executive director of global research for Staffing Industry Analysts, which compiles the report for APSCo, added, “The fact that our data showed a weaker professional staffing market in the run up to referendum is interesting but, given the dramatic outcome of the vote, it’s unclear how relevant this will be in understanding the post-Brexit prospects for professional staffing suppliers. If the majority of economists are right, we are looking at less-optimistic economic prospects over the next few years, if not an outright recession. On the plus side, the staffing industry benefits from periods of uncertainty so, while permanent hiring might struggle, demand for temporary and contract supply may still prove buoyant. The one thing we can be certain about at the moment is that there will be uncertainty!”

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