IT contractor demand defies coronavirus lockdown by growing, marginally

Technology agents were right to predict to ContractorUK that a second coronavirus lockdown in November would take the momentum out of the IT contractor jobs recovery.

In fact, although appetite for IT skills on a contract basis still managed to grow last month, the demand failed to achieve the double-digit index increases notched up over the summer.

Report on Jobs by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation also shows that November represents the first time in eight months that its IT contractor index score failed to increase.

'Slowdown'

The confederation’s chief executive Neil Carberry believes that a “slowdown” in both demand and placements is an “unsurprising” result of England’s lockdown measures.

But in line with online posts by jobsites, agencies and contractors themselves, he also said the scale of the slowdown appeared to be “much smaller” than that caused by the first lockdown.

“Employers are still looking to hire, with a lot of demand….displaced to January as firms hope the covid crisis is easing,” Mr Carberry said yesterday.

'Lockdown two hasn't blown recovey off course'

Uploading its own labour market update, Indeed gave a similar assessment. “Lockdown two hasn’t blown the UK's hiring recovery off course,” said the site’s economist Jack Kennedy.

“[Our] job postings…continue to gradually narrow the gap to last year's trend. Though are still down minus-41%.”

In the REC report, co-authors KPMG suggested that the extension of the furlough scheme might have played a part in the more subdued aspects of demand in November (which for IT contractors came in at 51.2, meaning it is still growing -- above 50.0 indicates growth, but it compares to a revised 51.6 in October).

'Breathing space'

Vice-chair at KMPG, James Stewart. said that while the extension gave the government “breathing space,” businesses still needed “support,” and job-seekers ‘the means to upskill.’

But the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme isn’t the only pressure exerting influence on the professional labour market. Upcoming regulation is too.

A temporary jobs specialist supplying London posted: “Over the past eight weeks, our job flow across ‘commerce and industry’ has increased 87% compared to July and August -- admittedly from a very low starting point.

“However, interestingly, 68% of the roles we’ve been instructed on have been fixed-term contract positions, compared to just 15% for the same period in 2019.

“This can be primarily attributed to businesses looking to both save costs -- and prepare for impending IR35 changes.”

'Tensions'

On Twitter this week, a ContractorUK reader acknowledged “tensions” in the market – but was referring to age-old conflicts between candidates and agencies.

Taking to another online platform, a senior product recruiter dispensed her own advice for candidates looking for work in the technology sector.

“I can't help but notice that lately more and more people on LinkedIn brand themselves with ‘ex-Google,’ ‘ex-Facebook,’ ‘ex-Big Player’”.

“Sure it's nice to know where you worked previously but…that doesn’t make you a better candidate then a person who worked at a start-up with less visibility or a less popular product.”

'Doesn't say anything about your capabilities'

The agent, Georgia Campan explained: “As a recruiter, I am far more interested in your achievements, talents, attitude, skill-set and overall motivation”.

“Working at a popular company does not say anything about your capabilities but rather something about your path.”

Sounding just relieved that his path finally has an income at the end of it, adjoined to some stimulating work, a senior project manager reflected: “After 15 months of soul-destroying searching and applying [including] zero replies and rejections, I have today signed my contract for my next challenge.

In an appeal to contract-seekers, the PM added: “Keep the faith and believe in yourself. That next role will come, you just have to keep looking. Reach out to your networks.”

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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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