Growth in IT contractor billings sinks to seven-year low

Growth in demand for IT contractors plummeted in May 2019, to its lowest level for almost seven years.

It means the ‘Brexit bounce’ that boosted IT freelancers in April was likely just a blip, especially as the subdued appetite for their skills is now set to last until clarity on Brexit.

That appetite stands on the monthly index of staffing body the REC at 51.2, down from the previous reading of 54.3, and representing the lowest score since July 2012, 83 months ago.

'Decisions on hold'

Companies ‘keeping their recruitment decisions on hold’ due to Brexit uncertainty is to blame, said James Stewart, vice-chair of KMPG, writing in the REC’s Report on Jobs.

And these hiring freezes will remain in place, he hinted, as the labour market (overall) is expected to “remain in stalemate over the summer”, as a new prime minister is sought.

While a vacancy at No 10 might not affect candidates, Mr Stewart says hirers are “unlikely to make any dramatic investment decisions until a new leader…[gives] more insight on” Brexit.

'Still creating'

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), was more upbeat, pointing out that the jobs market, as a whole, is “still creating opportunities”.

In the contract IT market, his reading is true, technically. But the market’s index score of 51.2 puts it very close to the REC’s 50.0 ‘growth’ threshold, below which openings are being lost.

Nevertheless, and despite most candidates currently being “risk averse” about changing jobs, Carberry believes “it is worth people talking to recruiters about that next step in their career.”

'Short supply'

Among contractors, that step should be easiest to take if they are Cloud Engineers, Data Analysts, Developers, Techies or Gamers, or have CNC, CAD, Oracle Fusion, or Java.

As well as Digital and IT generalists, these nine were seen in May as being in “short supply,” in the eyes of REC member agencies trying to fill temporary or freelance contracts.

Some 20 IT skills were also scarce last month for full-time positions, including Python, PHP, Cyber Security, Automation, Testing, Software Development, DevOps and Data Science.

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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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