IT contractor demand 'remained very high' in August

Roaring demand for IT contractors was a touch fainter in August 2021, an index shows, but still came in at an extraordinarily high level not seen since early 1998.

In fact, given 50.0 signals monthly growth, the market adjusting from 71.3 to 71.0 indicates IT contractor demand “remains very high,” the index compilers, the REC, told ContractorUK.

The staffing body’s CEO Neil Carberry said August experienced “record levels” of candidate shortages, “super-high” rates of temp billings growth and “fast-rising” daily rates.

'Mercenary contractors'

Online, such premiums inspired a post last month on “rate-chasing contractors,” with an agent saying his client called contractors “mercenary” after they quit for better pay elsewhere.

But the agent, who places transformation and change contractors at London-based insurance companies, suggested that end-users themselves had only recently been exploiting record contractor availability.

“A lot of clients were keen to take advantage of the excess contractors during the pandemic, and rates were slashed so contractors had to flex if they wanted to pick up work.

“However [now, just] a matter of months [later]," the agent said, "the market has flipped on its head and there is an under-supply of quality talent on the market, driving rates back up.”

'Still a job-seeker's market'

Writing in the August Report on Jobs by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), its co-authors KPMG confirmed that “it remains a job-seeker’s market.”

And the professional services firm’s Clare Warnes hinted that while the pendulum of demand may of course swing back to favour end-users, it will remain with candidates for the foreseeable.

“The winding down of the furlough scheme at the end of September…potentially bringing more job-hunters to the market, could…add fuel to the labour shortage fire,” she said.

'Tight labour market for the next decade'

Also writing in the report, the confederation’s Mr Carberry said a number of factors meant that the labour market would “remain tight for several years to come.”

Taking to LinkedIn after the report’s publication, the staffing boss appeared to upgrade his forecast, saying that the tight labour market would be around for “the next decade.”

“Attracting and retaining staff”, continued Mr Carberry, “requires a serious assessment [by end-users] of why workers want to work with the firm; from management approaches to facilities, as well as pay.”

'Cannot expect contractors to work for sub-market rates'

Agreeing that money remains a vital part of the mix, the London insurers’ agent said: “Clients have to be fair, competitive, and flexible with their rates and if not, cannot expect contractors to work on rates significantly under market rates.”

In August, automation testing was the only technology skill uniquely scarce in the IT contractor market.

Also in “short supply” according to REC agencies, on a temporary basis (but on a permanent basis too), were Development, Software Engineering, Technology/IT.

The agents said the full-time market was additionally short of applicants with Azure, C#, Data Science, Software, Digital, Social Media and CAD.

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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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