IT contractor demand sinks to two-year low

Demand for IT contractors and other freelance IT staff working through recruiters plummeted in May, sinking to its lowest level so far this year, on the back of the jobs market’s ‘return to cautiousness’.

In its latest monthly Report on Jobs, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) scored demand for temporary IT/Computing staff at 49.2 – down from 53.5 in the previous report, in April.

That compares negatively to the same time a year ago when it was 60.5, and to May 2010, when it was 56.4. The nearest IT contractors recently came to their current low was in October of that year (49.6).

The REC, whose member companies include IT recruiters, reflected on their feedback: “There were reports linking lower temp billings to tight client budgets and, in some cases, the effect of Agency Worker Regulations.”

As a set of temporary workers operating through agencies, IT contractors are ranked fifth out of eight in the demand stakes, placing them in front of accountants and executives, just behind caterers but some distance from engineers (ranked first).  

“IT, engineering and construction… [are] remaining in pole position when sector data is taken into consideration,” said Bernard Brown, of report co-authors KMPG.

“[But] sadly” he added, for the economy, “the latest figures…[are] indicating a return to uncertainty and cautiousness when it comes to recruitment on the part of many employers.”

Yet some “pockets of good news” are present.  Regionally for example, the Midlands is still the strongest performer for full-time jobs while, on a sector basis, IT is the healthiest out of eight in terms of permanent job creation.

Full-time staff recruiters did struggle last month to source a long list of IT applicants, however, among them those with Agile, C++, Java, SAP, Ruby, .NET, and Microsoft Dynamics.

In the four weeks from April 30th, the REC agents also contended with shortages of some IT contractors too, particularly those skilled in C++, Java, SAP, Security,.NET, SQL and Testing.

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