IT contractor demand eased in September, on the cusp of growth

Demand for IT contractors increased in September for the seventh month in a row, although it  remains ‘in the red,’ as the consecutive gains slowed significantly in the last four weeks.

In its latest Report on Jobs, agency group the REC scores IT contractor demand at 47.6, still shy of the 50.0 growth threshold, but up from 46.7 in August, 40.5 in July and 30.0 in June.

The group explained that in September its member companies saw a “slight improvement in demand,” amid ‘worker supply continuing to rise,’ partly due to “ongoing redundancies”.

'Story varies'

Although made about the labour market as a whole, these statements pertain to the IT contractor market too, despite it not yet following the full-time IT market back to growth.

“Given the scale of falls in demand during the lockdown, we would expect a return to positive territory at this stage”, said REC’s chief executive Neil Carberry.

“But…the story varies between sectors, [although]….the fact [is] that the labour market is always creating roles – our challenge is to help people to find them.”

'The worst recruiter ever'

Taking to LinkedIn in the month which the REC report covers, one recruiter suggested that it was a challenge which he goes the extra mile to meet.

“A candidate I was working with said this to me last week: ‘You’re the worst recruiter I’ve ever worked with.’

“They said it jokingly…because I had just told them to accept another position, one I hadn’t introduced them to,” said the agent, Matthew Evans.

'Dark cloud'

However, this is far from the only unconventional activity in the covid-coloured labour market.

“I have had people say ‘NO’ to jobs right now -- to actual offers of employment,” says Kate McCarthy-Booth, founder of McCarthy Recruitment.

“And….I don’t blame them. The dark cloud of a looming [second] lockdown…is making people feel unstable, uncertain and unwilling to commit.”

'Off-the-cuff policies'

The recruitment boss added that the government’s seemingly “off-the-cuff” policies relating to covid-19, conceived to support worker incomes’ as the pandemic persists, were unhelpful.

Writing in the September report by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), James Stewart, vice-president of KPMG, confirmed that the government has its work cut out, despite only recently unveiling a Winter Economy Plan which was meant to help.

 “The government has got challenging times ahead to continue to offer adequate support to business, opportunities for job-seekers to upskill while helping instil confidence in the UK workforce,” he said yesterday.

“With increasing unease over what will happen in the coming months with the pandemic, Brexit and with the end of the furlough scheme in sight, the uncertainty for UK business is not going to dissipate anytime soon.”

'Still a long way to go'

Jobs researcher Pawel Adrjan, of Indeed.com agrees: “UK job postings…continue to improve gradually.

“But…much will depend on how the government supports business and workers going forward. There’s still a long way to go until the labour market recovers.”

Posting ahead of World Mental Health Day this Saturday, one IT contractor said: “I’ve been on the bench for nine months now. I lost my drive and desire to carry on…[and] so [even] withdrew from LinkedIn.”

'Success through my network'

But an Information Security Specialist indicates that withdrawing from the business networking site is a sure-fire way of staying firmly planted on the bench.

“I’ve found more success through my [online] network than any other way,” said the specialist, Barbara Prevel, posting this month, and in line with guidance yesterday by the CV and Interview Advisors.

The REC’s latest list of “skills in short supply” (based on what its agency members reported) concurs, in that Cyber Security does not feature on either a full-time or contract basis.

'Remote worker-drag hurting London'

For the latter, temporary roles there was scarcity in September however for Data Scientists, BI; Database Developers, Developers, Software, Software Engineers and IT/Technology.

Shortages of permanent IT bodies are more numerous – they cover all of the above seven, in addition to Agile Project Managers, Analysis, C#, Java, Technical Managers and Digital.

Yet the chances of landing related opportunities in London are perhaps slimmer than many might think. Indeed’s economist Jack Kennedy said of September: “At the regional level, London is now performing worst.

“The capital held up best in the early stages of the crisis, but with large numbers of office workers continuing to work remotely from the commuter belt, the lack of footfall appears to be having a particularly substantial drag on sectors…in London.”

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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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