Despite Brexit uncertainty continuing to impact overall UK business confidence, freelancer and contractor placements rose – albeit very modestly – in September, according to KPMG and REC’s UK Report on Jobs.
The data, which was gathered from 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies, shows that temporary assignments grew slightly last month. But even so, this growth still leaves temporary placements stuck close to a 75-month low. Meanwhile, permanent staff appointments fell for the seventh consecutive month, which was the fastest rate of decline in over three years and meant the total demand for staff increased at the slowest rate since January 2012.
According to KPMG and REC, the tentative growth in temporary placements and a slump in permanent appointments are a result of the upcoming Brexit deadline, which is expected to see the UK leave the European Union once and for all on 31st October.
REC’s CEO, Neil Carberry, was quick to recognise the importance of the independent workforce in periods of uncertainty, before making it clear he believes a Brexit no-deal will continue to negatively impact the entire jobs market.
“While we continue to benefit from the flexibility of our jobs market as demand for temps holds steady, today’s survey emphasises the real-world impacts of the political and economic uncertainty businesses are facing,” he explained.
“The first priority should be avoiding a damaging no-deal Brexit and giving some stability back to British businesses, so they can drive the prosperity of the whole country.”
As the UK population prepares for a possible no-deal, the availability of talent has declined, with September seeing a sharp fall in total candidate supply. This fell among both contractors and permanent staff, with the report stating this was a consequence of “hesitance” due to economic and political uncertainty.
Focusing on the overall lack of jobs movement, KPMG’s Vice Chair, James Stewart, also outlined the importance of a resolution to the Brexit saga: “Looking ahead and with investment also contracting, businesses desperately need clarity on Brexit outcomes in order to re-build confidence in the jobs market and be able to make more informed decisions on their long-term hiring plans.”
All but one of the four monitored English regions registered lower permanent staff appointments in September – the exception was the North of England.
Once again, temporary placements fared better than permanent appointments, with the North of England and the Midlands both experiencing “marked increases” in the same month. The South of England grew too, although at a lower rate, while contractor placements in London declined for a second consecutive month. Seven of the ten industries that KPMG and REC monitor experienced a rise in temporary placements, with healthcare workers benefitting the most.
Regardless, REC’s Neil Carberry said the figures in general “are a sobering reminder to politicians of all parties that national prosperity relies on businesses creating jobs and growing careers. Britain’s record on jobs is world-leading. It’s a key part of our economic success, with recruiters at the forefront of it. And there are still great opportunities out there for those looking for a new job and a boost in earnings.”
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