Demand for IT contractors grew in December due to Brexit-covid uncertainty

Demand for IT contractors took the atypical course of increasing in the run-up to Christmas, as Brexit-covid uncertainty shined a light on techies who are only temporary.

So at odds with the slowdown traditionally seen as the year ends, appetite for IT workers who can be taken on as quickly as they can be let go leapt in December to 55.2, from 52.6.

The reading, from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, tallies with what one IT contractor jobs firm saw last month, and with what three big tech agencies largely predicted.

'Temp has been a powerhouse'

Other contract staff sectors also boomed on the back of full-time hiring conditions being unattractive, returning the “biggest expansion in temporary recruitment since October 2018.”

“[This] shows how important the flexible jobs market is,” continued the REC’s Neil Carberry, referring to December’s Report on Jobs.

“Temp hiring [has been] a powerhouse all autumn. [The latest hiring activity] emphasises the potential for a jobs bounce-back.”

'Lockdown loans aren't for contractors or agencies'

But taking aim at £4.6billlion in new lockdown loans, Mr Carberry said “we need a long-term plan to support businesses across the supply chain – not just those required to close.”

Legal expert Hannah Morrison confirmed to ContractorUK that the loans are unlikely to help contractors or their agency partners, as they are only available to firms forced to close.

“Unfortunately, the chancellor’s announcement of grants [is just for] retail, hospitality and leisure businesses legally required to close, and which cannot operate effectively remotely.”

An associate at law firm Brabners, she added: “[Such firms are] eligible for a grant of up to £9,000 which will be provided on a per-property basis, with the amount payable depending on the business’s rateable value.”

'Light at the end of the tunnel'

But alongside covid-19 vaccines, “continued government financial support” for both employers and job-seekers is offering “light at the end of the tunnel”, said KMPG’s vice-chair James Stewart.

Co-authored by the professional services firm, Report on Jobs adds that starting salaries and temp wages both increased in December for first time since March 2020, when the first coronavirus lockdown began.

“Anecdotal evidence indicated that greater [temp] market activity…[owed to] a preference for short-term workers, as uncertainty intensified around the pandemic and Brexit,” the report adds.

'Short supply'

Further referring to December, both perm and contract agencies reported a "short supply" of candidates skilled in Analysis, Automation Testing, BI, Cyber, C#, Data Science, Development, IT/Technology, Maximo, SAP and Software.

Additionally scarce but only on the permanent side, the REC’s tech agents struggled to fill vacancies requiring Agile, Project Management, Cyber Security, CNC, Cloud Engineering, Data and Digital. December also saw a scarcity of Database Developers for contract roles.

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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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