Steep decline in contractor hiring levelling out

Steep decline in contractor hiring levelling out

Contractor hiring suffering, but decline is “flattening

Coronavirus saw contractor hiring severely impacted in April, with vacancies for professional contract roles falling 44% year-on-year and 41% month-on-month. However, experts say the decline is beginning to flatten, offering some hope for independent workers. 

Having experienced its ‘worst month in 11 years’ in March due to COVID-19, the latest APSCo data suggests that opportunities for contractors were limited last month again. Although, the latest drop in hiring activity does represent a “slight flattening of the decline” explain staffing specialists. And while not hit as badly as permanent hiring, which was down 56% year-on-year and 49% month-on-month in April, contractor vacancies are beginning to show signs of a “new normal.”

Contractor hiring “levelling out”

The insight, provided by growth analytics firm, cube19, compared average hiring data for the first 16 days of March (before the lockdown) with the first 16 days of April. It showed that new vacancies for professional contractors fell by only 16%. Permanent opportunities, meanwhile, were hit much harder in the same period, decreasing by more than half (52%). 

cube19’s Global Sales Director, Joe McGuire, commented on the findings:

“We are continuing to see the impact of COVID-19 across the industry. Although the data shows we are tracking some way behind 2019 levels the daily trends seem to have levelled out. A number of industries such as life sciences, healthcare and areas of technology have been less affected and some agencies are taking advantage of this by refocusing in these directions. With the potential easing of lockdown on the horizon, we would hope to see an increase in confidence and a knock-on effect on new jobs.”

Government prevents “Armageddon scenario”

Despite having been criticised by experts for overlooking the needs of limited company contractors who have lost income due to Coronavirus, the Government was praised by APSCo’s CEO, Ann Swain, for supporting a number of vital sectors. This has been important in helping industries survive and, in turn, engage workers, Ms Swain explained:

“After the initial shockwaves of the lockdown, the various support packages put in place by the Government have avoided the Armageddon scenario in professional sectors that many had feared. Consequently, job roles in sectors such as HR, engineering, IT and finance have fared much better than areas such as hospitality, leisure and blue-collar sectors. Government plans for a phased easing of lockdown are likely to give a much needed – if gradual – boost to May hiring activity as employers adapt to what is likely to be a new normal for some months to come.”

Hiring for “new normal” begins 

In line with decreased hiring activity, the number of interviews held in April dropped dramatically (by 48.7%) compared with the first two weeks of March prior to lockdown. As a result, APSCo has said hiring managers are taking full advantage of technology to interview remotely. This is something contractors have been told to prepare themselves for, with the staffing association of the belief that remote interviews will become the “new normal in the months to come as those interviews turn into job offers.”


  • Graham says:

    I am seeing hiring picking up for contracts to April next year as IR35 bans and blanket decisions are reversed and staff are needed.

    There was a push to move work overseas but in the short term we have the people with skills available in the UK that match the budgets available to fill a the near term gap.

    Once we hit IR35 implementation again next year I foresee a bad drop again, especially as people come out of lockdown and can move or the new staff overseas have been trained up.

  • IR35 victim says:

    When you say it’s flattening out, you actually mean it has hit the bottom and is now bouncing along at zero.

    3 months and no contracts at all no call backs no interviews, I had a role until Xmas with a large bank, IR35 got that binned at the end of Feb and the work was offshored.

    The contract market is dead, every contractor I know is either without work or now chasing permanent roles. None of the people I know actually have jobs, if it wasn’t for furlough then I would have nothing coming in at all.

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