Brexit sealed Christmas as quiet for IT contractors

The quiet Christmas that was on the cards for IT contractors back in November delivered in earnest, as growth in demand for their skills effectively flatlined in December.  

Hirers using the festive season to wind down their campaigns partly led to the flatlining, yet an atypical factor also caused IT contractor demand to register at 58.3, versus 58.6 in November.

“December is always a bit of lean period in the jobs market but Brexit has amplified that effect,” says James Stewart of KPMG, co-authors of Report on Jobs which features the scores.

'Uncertainty'

This ‘Brexit-effect’ was spotted before Christmas, as despite usually being favoured by jittery hirers, temporary candidates were said to be contending with a lull due to UK-EU uncertainty.

“People don’t want to move jobs right now because there is so much uncertainty”, Mr Stewart, KPMG’s vice-chair said in the report, which is published by agency body the REC.

“In addition, the supply of EU citizens entering the UK for work is slowing.”

'Talent gaps'

He added that one upshot of both inert job-holders and fewer EU applicants is that “talent gaps in industries like…IT are opening up.”

In the temporary IT skills market, that is happening with Oracle Fusion -- the skill was hard to find for freelance computer contracts in November, and was still hard to find last month.

The three other IT skills uniquely scarce among contractors (i.e. they are not scarce among full-timers) are PHP Development, Full Stack Development and Javascript Development.

'Digital and Web'

This trio being labelled ‘in short supply’ chimes with an alert from niche jobs agency Bowers Partnership, which has said clients will use 2019 to boost their digital and web-based offerings.

Cue, Software Development, CAD, Cyber Security, Data and IT generalists also proving hard for agencies to source in December, for both full-time positions and temporary opportunities.

Overall, and given the index score of 58.3, those opportunities in IT grew in December (any score over 50.0 indicates monthly growth), but full-time applicants lacked Automation, Analytics; C#, Digital, Gaming, Software Engineering and Systems Architecture skills.

'Opportunities out there'

“Economic uncertainty is now affecting companies’ hiring plans,” says Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

“But the underlying strength of our labour market is still there -- vacancies are high and temporary placements rose in the run-up to Christmas. There are opportunities out there for people who want to change job in 2019.”

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