For the first time in seven long months, the number of contractors in the UK has begun to increase once again according to new data from ONS.
The Office for National Statistics hasn’t exactly been the bearer of good news over the last few months, what with the slow but inexorable slide downwards in how many freelancers and umbrella company contractors were working in the UK. However, figures for the third quarter of this year recently released by the ONS indicate that there are 30,000 additional self-employed Brits than there were in Q3 2014 – raising the overall number of self-employed in the UK to a round five million.
This is obviously music to the ears of every freelancer and contract worker out there, as it’s proof positive that their chosen method of employment is alive and strong even in the wake of a slow seven-month slide. The decline had been generating more than a little concern, as there were fears that it was an early indicator that the economic recovery might be flagging. However, that’s happily not the case – and ONS says there’s even more cause to celebrate as employment rates overall rose by 0.3 percent in Q3 2015 among the 16 to 64 year old age bracket. In fact, employment rates within that demographic are now 73.3 per cent.
So yes, that’s some excellent news coming out of ONS this week, and it’s certainly allaying the fears of individuals and organisations alike that were concerned that the freelancer population was undergoing a decline for economic reasons. Truth be told, there have always been individuals who didn’t jump into contracting in as much that they were pushed into it – during the global economic downturn, many who were made redundant and who couldn’t find a new permanent position had no choice but to strike out on their own to survive. Now that the economy has recovered, those same Brits – who might not have been particularly happy with the arrangement – are ostensibly returning to traditional employment. How much of this behaviour could have accounted for the seven-month slump in freelancer population figures is unknown – for what it’s worth, your guess is as good as mine – but if this was having an influence on the contractor economy it seems to have abated.
In all honesty, I wasn’t particularly worried. These things tend to ebb and flow like the tides, and while seven months was bordering on quite a long time it just shows that there’s plenty of life left in the self-employment sector. That much is absolutely obvious, especially when you’ve got 5 million Brits working for themselves instead of on behalf of an employer.