Growth in IT contractor demand cools

Demand for IT contractors who work through recruitment agencies eased in March for the first time in 20 months, despite still being stronger than at any time during 2012.

In its latest Report on Jobs, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation yesterday scored IT contractor demand at 55.9 – down from 56.4 in February but up from 51.8 last March.

It is also up on January, and the preceding quarter – including December when, at a reading of 54.6, it stood at a higher level than any other month of 2012 - even beyond the IT contracts flurry of August (53.9).   

But seeming to explain last month’s dip, the REC’s recruiters signalled that the five key shortages of IT skills on a temporary basis have all but dried up, as only "General IT" expertise is now hard to source for freelance contracts.

At the same time, the availability of all temporary job candidates increased, as did demand for permanent IT workers who, for the second month in a row, saw the strongest rate of growth (compared with other full-time candidates) in their pool of new opportunities.

This suggests that, while March saw overall employer confidence fall to a six-month low, the impetus in the IT labour market may be swinging towards full-time candidates, even though numerous computer skills remain hard to find for permanent roles.

In fact, the REC recruiters reported a dearth of candidates to fill IT positions requiring Business Intelligence, DBA, Development, Java, .Net, PHP, PPC, SQL server and ‘softer’ skills, such as online/digital marketing (including SEO).

However, there is no longer a deficit of C# candidates – scarce in January on both a full-time and contract basis – contrary to what one computer staffing firm in the South East is now seeing at the bottom end of the market.

“There are a number of roles being released to the market from a range of clients and currently there is a distinct lack of graduate and junior C# developers,” said Jenrick IT, pointing to activity in March.

The firm’s training manager Matt Hancock explained: “C# is competing on a more and more even keel with Java and although there are still a few performance issues when comparing the two, the gap is extremely close now. The language’s intuitiveness, versatility, coupled with the increase in features in versions 4.0 and 5.0, has meant it is becoming more and more popular across a range of industries.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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