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Demand for talent slips, but IT market bucks the trend, APSCo reveals

Professional recruitment firms reported that the number of candidates securing permanent roles in August 2018 increased by 10% year-on-year, according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

APSCo’s research, which focuses on professional recruitment, reveals notable variations between the trade association’s core sector groups in terms of hiring activity. While permanent placements within IT and financial services increased by 46% and 6% respectively over the 12 month period, the number of engineering professionals securing permanent roles during this time slipped by 2%. Vacancies for permanent staff, meanwhile, remained largely stable across the board, dipping by just 2% in August 2018.  

Demand for contractors continued to slow in August 2018, with vacancies decreasing by 6% across the board. The number of contractors out on assignment in August 2018 was 14% lower than the previous year. 

Despite this overall dip, the contract market within financial services remains strong with demand for non-permanent professionals up 26% year-on-year across the sector. The number of finance contractors out on assignment increased by 6% in August 2018.

This heightened demand for contractors within financial services can likely be attributed to employers being unwilling to bring on board permanent talent amid Brexit uncertainty, which the publication of the recent paper Banking, insurance and other financial services if there's no Brexit deal, will have done little to abate.  

While demand for permanent professionals dipped by 2% across the board, vacancies for IT professionals increased by 8% year-on-year in August 2018. Similarly, while contract vacancies slipped by 6%, vacancies for IT contractors rose by 3%.

The number of IT contractors out on assignment in August 2018 was 30% lower than August 2017, which can largely be attributed to recent changes - and further anticipated amendments - to IR35 legislation making non-permanent employment a less attractive choice for talent and employers alike. However, when juxtaposed against a significant 46% year-on-year rise in permanent placements, it is evident that the IT market remains particularly strong.     

This increase in demand for IT talent is reflected in the finding of PwC’s latest CEO Survey, which revealed that 76% of CEOs are concerned about the lack of digital skills within their own workforce. 

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors remained flat in August 2018. Despite a 0% rise across the board, there are notable fluctuations in terms of sector, with accountancy and engineering recording uplifts of 2.4% and 1.3% respectively.

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, commented, “Brexit uncertainty continues to cause ripples across the professional jobs market, and the latest reports that the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal is ‘dead’ are unlikely to improve matters in the near future. However, despite the turbulent climate, overall placement numbers remain strong, even if demand is beginning to wane. 

“The big success story this month is perm IT placements, which have increased almost 50% year-on-year. While much of this activity can be attributed to a fall in the use of IT contractors, permanent placements still far outstrip this drop. It seems that, against the current backdrop, businesses are locking in vital skills that are becoming increasingly harder to source on a contingent basis.”

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