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Britain’s post-Brexit recovery relies on contractors as permanent placements plummet

UK firms continue to target contractors, as fears surrounding Brexit saw permanent placements plummet in July to a level not seen since the 2008/09 recession. If you’re currently without a contract, you should capitalise on market volatility by seeking out new opportunities.

The first post-Brexit Report on Jobs from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) sends out a stark message to contractors, who could once again find themselves spearheading the UK’s economic recovery.

“The UK jobs market suffered a dramatic freefall in July,” comments REC chief executive Kevin Green. “The sharp fall in placements suggests that businesses are highly cautious about committing to new hires. Economic turbulence following the vote to leave the EU is undoubtedly the cause.”

Flexible workforce expected to lead economic recovery

Continuing the pre-Brexit trend, contractor agency billings continued to rise in July, though at an eased pace. This did little to counteract the sharp drop-off in permanent billings, though the indications suggest that short-term contracts will be easier to come by in the uncertain economic climate.

“Contractors may feel a sense of déjà vu here,” notes ContractorCalculator CEO Dave Chaplin. “Though the UK isn’t in the dire straits it was in 2008/09, the early indications are that, once again, industry is depending on the flexible workforce to lead its recovery.”

Contractor pay rates also continued to climb, pointing towards a sustained upturn in fortunes which could be supplemented by the ongoing talent shortfall, as Green points out:

“The record-high employment rate and ongoing skills shortages have made it difficult for employers to find suitable candidates in the past, and this remains the case.”

‘Contractors need to seek out opportunities’

The only region not to record a rise in contractor agency billings was London, where the rate of decline was the most severe in seven years. Meanwhile, contractor availability also continued to fall in July, this time at the sharpest pace since February.

The latest contractor demand league table shows that individual contracting sectors experienced varying fortunes in July. Most notably, the finance sector slipped from seventh to eighth, mirroring the fall in contractor placements in the capital.

The construction sector also fell one place to fifth, although the latest Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMIs) suggest that production, and subsequent contractor demand, may pick up soon. Meanwhile, engineering and IT came in sixth and seventh respectively.

“Nothing can be said for certain, but if past experience is anything to go by, contractors are likely to experience heightened demand for their services,” Chaplin concludes. “Contractors need to seek out opportunities to help the UK bounce back as quickly as possible.”

Published: 09 August 2016

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