Hiring confidence falters yet contractor demand soars

Demand for self-employed Brits like freelancers and umbrella company contractors is soaring even as the looming election is causing hiring confidence to falter.

Or at least that’s what the Association of Professional Staffing Companies says, as its newest data revealed that vacancies for temporary and contract workers were up by 4.4 per cent overall in comparison to last year’s figures. The biggest gains were in the marketing and media sector with a massive jump of 9 per cent, while the next highest was accounting and finance at a much more modest but still positive 1.5 per cent.

Things haven’t been faring so well for permanent workers in comparison though. Demand slipped by one per cent month-on-month from February of this year, and APSCO says that anxiety surrounding the general election is causing its fair share of uncertainty in hiring. APSCo chief Ann Swain said that it’s only natural for organisations to tap the brakes on their hiring efforts with a big election on its way, especially since there’s the potential for large impacts on policy changes as a result.

Still, I wouldn’t be worried about anything just yet, as vacancies have gone up by 21 per cent year on year. Not only that, but the Office for National Statistics says that Brits in employment have reached 30.94 million – a personal best for the country; 143,000 people picked up new jobs in the three months to January, ONS added.

Still, there’s always concerns that the bubble will burst – if it is indeed a bubble. In this case, the pin that pops it could easily be the skills shortage, as it’s been gripping the UK for an extended period of time. The skills gap, created by a large number of retiring workers and a lack of new ones with the requisite skills and experience to fill these roles on a permanent basis, has certainly led to a wonderful surge in contracting positions, but everyone knows it’s a stopgap measure at best. Surely there are more Brits choosing to work as an interim worker every day, but it’s highly unlikely that these freelancers will be able to keep up with demand indefinitely; for what it’s worth, younger workers need better training opportunities to fix the problem on a more permanent basis.

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